:: explanations are due ::
The door opened and Jack O'Neill was positioned behind it, ready to brain anyone that walked in with an obvious intent to do him harm. However, he was extremely surprised when instead of the Jaffa guards he was expecting, a young woman walked in. She had long black hair that flowed down her back with various braids interspersed in the mass along with colorful ribbons and she was wearing a long cream colored robe tied with a green sash at the waist. She couldn't have been more than seventeen years old and she was a full head shorter than he. With what appeared to be surprise written all over her young face, she looked around the room in search of O'Neill. When she finally saw him, standing behind the door with a statue raised threateningly in his hand, she gave him a quizzical look. "What are you doing there?" she asked.
"Uh…" he thought in vain for something to say as his hands fumbled to put the statue back on a nearby table. " Just admiring your art," he said lamely.
"You like art?" Her face brightened up and he quickly nodded, ready to take advantage of how easily she appeared to believe him.
"Yeah, I was admiring all of your paintings…" he said, trailing off as he gestured around the room vaguely. O'Neill's eyes looked back at the statue he had been holding moments before and he added, "and stuff."
She smiled. "If you would like, I can arrange a tour the city for you so you can see all of our greatest works of art."
"Sure," O'Neill said, in a voice that was strained to muster up enough enthusiasm to sound sincere. "That sounds great." Although art appreciation was usually Daniel's area of interest, O'Neill had learned over the years never to pass up an opportunity to scout out unknown enemy territory. "Speaking of cities, where exactly am I?" and after a moment's pause, he added, "And who are you?"
She stared at him with a strange look, one that he had the feeling he would be soon getting used to. After a moment, she said in a serious tone, "The Matriarch warned me that you did not know of our ways but I did not imagine that you would know nothing at all."
"Hey! I know a lot of stuff," O'Neill said defensively. "I just don't know anything about where I am, or how I got here, or where my team is… or who you are…" O'Neill decided to stop there before he dug himself a grave.
"Then you need some explanations. Please, come and sit." She let him over to a nearby table and they sat down, facing one another. "Let's start you off with something simple." Her pleasant smile took away any sting from her words that might have been present. "My name is Teryl. What is yours?"
"Colonel Jack O'Neill, U.S. Air Force," O'Neill answered.
"That is a very long name," she observed solemnly in a way that reminded him of Teal'c.
O'Neill chuckled. "Just call me Jack," he said.
"Why do you have such a long name if you only are called by a short portion of it?" she asked.
"I thought I was the one getting things explained here."
She flushed from embarrassment. "That is true." She rearranged her robes for a moment, which gave O'Neill the opportunity to observe that the green sash at her waist was the same shade of green as the shirt he was wearing. He tucked that little piece of information away for the moment, reminding himself to ask about it in a bit.
She began to explain. "You are here in the City to participate in the Hunt."
At the word "hunt", O'Neill flinched. He had never been one for hunting. He was the fishing type of guy. Hunting held no appeal for him. "What hunt?" he asked.
"The Hunt of the Red Bear."
"What's a red bear?"
"It is a large ferocious animal that is hunted every summer season by our people. The men compete to see who can kill one first."
"I don't like the sound of 'ferocious'. Do I have to hunt?"
"You were chosen for the Hunt. You will hunt."
"Who's going to make me?"
Teryl blanched at his words. "You cannot defy the Matriarch's will."
"I didn't agree to do this hunt, so why should I?"
"If you do not hunt… it has never happened before but I am sure that you will be in a great deal of trouble, as will I." She gave him a mournful look and he felt himself give in. Damn, O'Neill thought. He hated it when women played that card. He couldn't bring himself to get her in trouble now. She was so young and she kind of reminded him of Cassandra. That and he always had had a soft spot for kids.
Eager to change the subject and seeing in his face that he had decided not to go, Teryl stood up and picked up the bright red sash that was still draped over the chair. She turned to look at him, asking, "Why are you not wearing your sash?"
"Red doesn't look good on me," O'Neill said lightly. "Do I have to wear it? Something to do with this whole hunt thing?" At the look on her face, he sighed in defeat. If you're gonna do this, Jack, you might as well not fight her about the little things, he chided himself. "Okay." He stood up and took it from her, tying it around his waist quickly. Now that the subject had been brought up, he pointed at her sash. "Why is yours the same color as my shirt?"
"It signifies that you are in my charge and I am serving you for as long as you stay with us," she explained.
"So if I get in trouble, you take the heat?" he asked in a joking tone and she smiled in response but he had the feeling there was something else. His years in the black-ops and of dealing with politics gave him a kind of sixth sense so he knew when people were concealing information from him, even if they had not directly hidden it from him. There was some underlying thing about her assignment to watch him and about the Hunt that she was skirting.
He was about to press her about it when another woman, this one wearing a white robe with a blue sash, walked into the room. Tucking her hands into her large sleeves, she bowed to Teryl and announced, "The feast shall be ready soon. You are advised to bring the man to the Great Hall as soon as you are able to."
Teryl mimicked the other woman's bow and nodded. "We shall be there momentarily." Satisfied, the other woman left. Teryl turned to face O'Neill and said quickly, "We must go. We cannot be late."
"Okay. Ladies first," O'Neill made a sweeping gesture towards the door and after giving him another one of the looks that said "you're strange", Teryl walked out into the hallway and he followed her as they made their way to a destination that O'Neill presumed to be the Great Hall.
"So where's my team?" he asked her as they walked along. He was able to keep up with her quick steps as his strides were much longer than hers.
"They're where you left them," she answered.
O'Neill decided to try again. "Where I am in relation to their location?"
She stopped walking and looked at him for a moment, trying to figure out what he had asked her and its answer. Finally, she said, "The searchers brought you back through the Water and now you are here, in our city."
"Yes, the ring of water? You came through it, which did surprise the searchers a great deal." She smiled at this.
"Wait, I'm on a different planet?" O'Neill asked, surprised. He had thought he was merely in a nearby city or something. Not on a totally different planet. And the rest of his team members probably wouldn't know which Gate address to dial so he was completely on his own. He followed behind Teryl in stunned silence as his mind churned over, through, around and up the facts surrounding his current predicament.
Sensing that he had been disturbed by this information, Teryl spoke in an obvious attempt to comfort him. "After the Hunt is over, you will soon be returned to your friends," she assured him. "You will be here for a short period of time only."
O'Neill had heard that before when he had been a "guest" at other places and he knew that what they meant by a short period of time was actually closer to months of near-prisoner status. He began to rethink his earlier decision not to attempt an escape but once again rejected it. He had no idea what these people were like or anything about their culture or, most importantly, where the hell the stargate was.
Because without the stargate, he was stuck and stuck good.
"Any luck?" Carter asked Daniel as she strolled over to where he and Teal'c were standing. Daniel had been attempting to read the hieroglyphics that were written on the walls of the temple in a search for the gate address to where Colonel O'Neill had been taken and since Carter and Teal'c could not read the hieroglyphics, they were reduced to merely scanning the walls for any familiar symbols that represented a gate address.
Daniel shook his head, snapping shut a journal in frustration. "No, nothing. It's just a record of their history, which we already know. The only new information that I've learned is the names of the Goa'uld who brought them here." He looked back at the wall, his jaw set in obvious frustration.
Carter waited for a moment. "And?"
Daniel looked back at her, slightly startled as her voice jerked him back from the place he had drifted off to for a moment. "Oh, sorry. Neith and Khnum, or Khnemu as he was sometimes known, were the names of the Goa'uld. As you probably already guessed, we've never encountered them before. I don't remember ever hearing about Khnum, maybe Teal'c can fill us in on his recent activities, and we've never met up with Neith because she's been, well, hibernating, I suppose you could say, for the past hundred of our years, give or take a few, in what I can only guess is a modified sarcophagus." The sounds of the temple slowly died down around them as Daniel continued to talk but he was oblivious to the signs that communicated that something had indeed hit the fan. Carter and Teal'c, however, were not so absorbed in the archeologist's monologue that they had missed the danger signs and they shifted their grips on their weapons in preparation for any trouble.
"Um, guys? Are you listening?" Daniel asked them, his words falling heavily in the now silent room.
"I believe you have said something to offend these people, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c stated as he gazed around the room at the shocked faces assembled there.
"I did?" Daniel's eyes followed the Jaffa's and he realized that Teal'c was correct. The natives of the planet appeared to be quite upset. "What'd I say wrong?" Daniel asked, although in a much quieter, anxious tone.
"That is a question that would be better answered by them," Teal'c replied, inclining his head at the men who had begun to confer among themselves in hushed whispers.
The Patriarch stepped forward, his eyes troubled. "You can read what is written on the walls?" The question was directed at Daniel.
Daniel's brow was furrowed in confusion and anxiety but he nodded. "Yes."
A rush of whispers burst forth from the crowd behind the Patriarch and the members of SG-1 noticed that the Fathers had expressions of discomfort and even anger etched into their faces. The Patriarch held up a hand to quiet the men behind him and then once again spoke to Daniel. "You have read the names of Mother Earth and Father Sky?"
Daniel nodded again in affirmation and then asked, "Have I done something wrong?"
"Those names are sacred, only to be spoken by the ruling Fathers," the Patriarch explained. "For you to speak them and not be of our people… it is unheard of. An issue unprecedented." His eyes drifted downwards to gaze at the floor as he became lost in thought.
"I'm sorry," Daniel apologized, adjusting his glasses on his face nervously, "I didn't know."
The Patriarch's eyes lifted up and he met the archeologist's gaze evenly. "And I am sorry also." He lifted up his hand again and inclined it forward in a gesture that brought the man with the sword from before, Garrex, and his men to stand behind him. "These men will accompany you to a place where you will stay until Mother awakens and passes judgment on you. Please go with them."
"I'd rather not."
"I'm afraid you have no choice in the matter."
"Daniel Jackson will do no such thing," Teal'c said as his body tensed threateningly. He stated the words as though they were solid fact with a look that dared the Patriarch to disagree with him.
The Patriarch nervously smoothed out unseen wrinkles in his long robes. "I do not wish for this to dissolve into a battle between us. We have superior numbers, although they are not present at the moment, and you will lose and many of my people will die. Please comply with my request."
Daniel looked pained but he put his hand on Teal'c's arm. "I think I'm going to have to go with them, Teal'c," he said. "I don't see any other way we can resolve this at the moment."
"Don't worry, Daniel," Carter said in a low tone so only he and Teal'c could hear her. "We'll talk to them and if they won't let you go, we'll call up Hammond, get some backup and come back and spring you." She gave him a smile, albeit fake, in an endeavor to evoke one from him. He responded with a weak, half-hearted attempt and then took off his handgun and handed it to her, knowing that he couldn't allow the people of the planet to get a hold of it, even if it meant he go unarmed. She fought to stay calm, knowing that what he was doing was necessary at the moment, but knowing that didn't help the feeling that she had that made her just want to turn and shoot the Patriarch where he was standing. Or, better yet, Garrex, who had a smug grin on his face that made him look, for a moment, like Rodney McKay.
Alone, Daniel turned and walked away from his teammates and the small squad of men moved to encircle him, like a snake around its helpless prey as it slowly begins to constrict the life from it.
I'm assuming Teal'c can't read hieroglyphics here. As always, correct me if I'm wrong.
And a spiffy little fact for you here that relates to this story (though not in a big way): Ancient Egyptians considered the color red to be/represent evil.