Title: Walk No More in Shadow
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: SG-1/B:tVS/LotR. Daniel dreamed of the blonde woman with the steel-bright eyes: standing with him atop a battlement, gazing out over trampled fields toward the ominous fume of war. 2200 words.
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Spoilers: Post-series for all canon (B:tVS, Stargate SG-1, Lord of the Rings bookverse).
Notes: For kerrykhat, for the prompt of "Buffy/Daniel: reincarnation". Partially inspired by my 2006 ficlet, "Slow Thunder". (And obviously, in this particular 'verse, Tolkien's books don't exist).
"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend..."
-Faramir, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"
Daniel brushed reverent fingertips over the topmost volume of the stack of aged tomes resting atop the library table. None of the books that had been brought to him that morning were physically more than two hundred years old, but the accounts of enslavement, tyranny, and rebellion recorded within their pages had first been set down more than five thousand years before. They'd been copied and recopied multiple times down the long fall of years, on whatever media had happened to be available at the time, and hid safe in secret vaults by the reclusive organization that had compiled them.
Those vaults might have stayed secret for another five thousand years, if a small group of that organization's membership hadn't chanced to cross the path of one of the last Trust agents on Earth, and then refused to buy SG-1's cover story when the team had arrived to remove the Goa'uld from power. And unlike most other Tau'ri who'd learned too much to overlook or forget what they'd experienced, they were too rich in political power, resources, and connections for the SGC to buy or demand their silence.
Negotiations had been prickly on all sides, and Daniel was sure that Dr. Giles and his colleagues hadn't yet shared the full story about the 'warrior priestesses' whose experiences filled the majority of those volumes. Regardless, however, they had already provided him with several first-hand descriptions of the original Goa'uld occupation of Earth, in addition to several others recounting significant incursions after the Egyptian Stargate's burial. No proof of those later enslaving raids had ever actually been found on Earth before Dr. Giles had given General Landry an overview of the IWC's records of 'the demons with the glowing eyes'. Previously, the program's scholars had only known they must have happened at all by the presence of otherwise inexplicable settlers on worlds scattered across the galaxy.
There was no telling what he might uncover next. Although- about midway down the stack of books, an incongruous, slim shape bound in a more modern, faux leather cover stuck out like a sore thumb, hinting at a newer layer of secrets. Daniel eased the thin volume carefully out of the stack and carefully opened it to discover what looked like a handwritten diary. Where the other texts he'd read were full of careful, closely written script on unruled paper, the diary had been scrawled in an open, haphazard hand on thin white pages broken with blue lines. It wouldn't have looked out of place in a modern student's backpack- which begged the question of what it was doing in such otherwise notable company.
He frowned, moving the journal under a lit lamp, and began scanning the entry to which the journal had naturally fallen open. Someone had apparently read, and reread that section already; the corner had been creased for reference, and a blurred smear of ink at the bottom right edge showed where a thumb had brushed repeatedly over the worn paper.
The world sweeps by in a slow thunder of hooves: a storm passing low over sun-baked plains, everything flattened in our wake. The smells of crushed grass, dry earth, and damp horse rise in my nostrils; the glitter of sunlight on armor flashes like lightning around the edges of my vision. Honor, glory, and desire for vengeance stiffen the spines of those around me; I know, for I once felt as they did, before grief and long, hopeless, dreary duty stole such strength from me. Only my determination keeps me going now, arm clasped around a small cloak-clad passenger, eyes fixed on the golden flow of my brother's hair from beneath his helm.
Despair weighs heavily at my heart; I know I've disobeyed the orders of my King and abandoned our people in their hour of need, but what else could I do? I am a shield maiden, born to the saddle and the sword, as courageous and capable as any man. I can't continue to sit still, caged in the trappings of my rank while all those I love ride off to certain death without me. It would be the ending of me, as swift as any orcish sword; it would drive me mad to wait, knowing that if the war be lost, I and all the remnants of my people would be swept under the flood of the enemy's advance- and if by some miracle it be won, I would be doomed to a marriage of alliance despite the barrenness of my heart.
I lost my first suitor, after barely beginning to get to know him; and the man who leads us at my uncle's side, who brought me the news and caught my stricken soul with his beauty and kindness, was never mine to begin with. What other man could ever hope to banish such specters from my heart? And if such a man does exist, would he permit me to be what I am, or shut me up in a tower to wither like a wildflower displayed in a vase?
I blink back tears as they creep down my cheeks. To hope's end I ride, and to heart's breaking; out of doubt, out of dark, to the day's rising...The cramped script grew lighter and harder to read with the last sentence, as though the writer had lost the thread of her thoughts, or had grown too emotional to continue. Daniel drew a shaky breath as he finished the last, uncertain line, brushing his own thumb over the smeared fingerprint of readers past. The anguish of the unknown woman fairly leapt off the page; it caught at his heart, pressing down on his spirit with a heavy hand, resonating with the part of him that had railed, trap-caught and fading, ever since Apophis' invasion of Abydos.
Daniel could almost hear her speaking, somewhere just beyond the threshold of hearing; could almost see her, a glint of clear grey eyes set in a pale face. Wounded in both body and spirit, grave almost to the brink of hopelessness; but beautiful still, as compelling and queenly as Sha'uri in her dignity of spirit. Words came to him, without conscious input, and he murmured them aloud: "For you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back."
"Dr. Jackson?" an unexpected voice responded.
Daniel started, knocked rudely out of his pensive mood by the intruder, and blinked up at the open door of the private library's reading room. His temporary host stood there, another armload of books clasped close to his chest, and frowned at him in puzzlement.
"Sorry- just stirred up some old memories." Daniel closed the journal, leaving a fingertip trapped between the pages to mark his place, and gestured with it.
The scholar's eyebrows lifted at the sight of the volume. "Ah, you've found Buffy's dream journal, I see. I apologise; I had meant to discuss it with you. I don't know how much worth you might place on such nebulous arts as foresight and prescience, given the- the somewhat mythical origins of our joint enemies, but there are a number of accounts in that particular volume that shed further light on events detailed elsewhere in our records. I thought you might value the additional perspective, and persuaded her to loan it to me for a short time."
Daniel's fingers tightened convulsively on the spine of the book. Dream journal? Then the woman who'd written that passage was still...? He froze that thought in its tracks, then carefully marked the section with a slip of paper and replaced the book atop the stack.
"It's certainly unusual," he said, "but we have encountered people with abilities that presented as psychic gifts before." After Nirrti's experiments, Oma, Anubis, Adria, and the various personal brushes with Ascension or Ancient artefacts experienced by members of the extended Stargate Program over the years, the idea of prophetic dreams wasn't all that implausible. He had only to remember his last meeting with Shifu to know how exactly how such a thing could happen.
Then he moved to take the new stack from the other man, assessing the aged spines with a critical eye. There'd be time enough to examine his reaction to the journal in more detail when he was alone; until then, there was work to be done.
Later- much later- that evening Daniel shut the door of his hotel room behind him, the journal tucked carefully under one arm with a loose sheaf of notes. He'd thumbed through a few of the other dreams set down on its pages over a lonely dinner, and found none that matched the glimpse of the despairing princess from that first accounting; but there'd been a common thread through all of them, a desolation and acceptance of imminent death that had caught and kept his attention.
He set the book on the nightstand as he took care of his evening rituals: a call to Jack to let him know how the research was going, a call to Mitchell about when to pick him up the next morning for breakfast before returning to the IWC building, a shower, and an hour or two spent with his laptop to try to impose some order on his notes. Then he readied himself for bed, picked the book up again, propped a pillow behind his back, and read of the violent lives and final battles of a dozen more young women until his eyes grew heavy and he set it aside to turn out the light.
With that kind of lullaby material, it probably shouldn't have been a surprise that he, too, dreamed that night, haunted by the images he'd read- and others conjured up out of his own mind.
He saw the blonde woman with the steel-bright eyes standing with him atop a battlement, gazing out over trampled fields toward the ominous fume of war. A thick, starry cloak mantled over her shoulders, and his heart was full of wonder at the sight of her. Before long, however, grey eyes melted and blurred into a mist-swathed riverbank; in the dim light of a young moon, he watched a narrow boat slip by on a calm current, a pale glow illuminating the features of the man who lay inside it. A stab of grief pierced him to the quick; he closed his dreaming eyes, murmuring 'Boromir, where is thy horn?' and opened them again to the sight of a tall wave, curling overhead, swallowing up the stars.
'Ska'ara,' he mourned, inexplicably reminded of his brother's loss. Then the vast weight of water crashed down over him, the roar of its descent melting into a crackle of fire. Kasuf's wise, familiar features briefly flashed through his thoughts, overlain by those of an older man in medieval clothing with a broken object held reverently in his hands. Then the sands of Abydos swirled across his vision, obscuring and parting to reveal a seven-layered, stone clad city, its streets running red with blood.
Black despair stalked him through a further succession of apocalyptic scenes- but always, no matter how dark the dream became, a pale light of hope seemed to linger. Reaving grief was balanced by a fierce determination to protect his family and his people; and eventually, as dawn sent golden fingers creeping through a gap in the window curtains, images of spring crept in to overtake the last lingering bleakness. A garden grew, renewing wasted lands that had once sheltered enemies; and amid the vast bulk of the tiered city, the brightness of new gates, hopeful faces and a spray of white flowers in a high courtyard lifted his weary spirits.
'I will be a shield maiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying,' he seemed to hear a voice saying. Wondering, he looked into grey eyes again- warmed this time with a dawning joy- and woke to find his face wet with tears.
He stared up at the ceiling, lost in thought. It had been a long time since Daniel had allowed himself the luxury of weeping over his own losses; and though he knew he should have dismissed the strange things he'd dreamt as the confused ramblings of his subconscious, he felt as though a wound long festered had been lanced and bled clean.
The cathartic peace stayed with him when he finally got up to get ready for his day; and lingered still when he re-entered the library to resume his studies. Mitchell kept throwing him strange, concerned looks, but Daniel put him off with a murmured demand for coffee, then carried the journal back to the table piled with tomes.
Footsteps approached; probably Dr. Giles again, he thought, and looked up.
Instead, Daniel met the curious gaze of a young woman, dressed in the height of modern fashion, shoulders bared by a closely-tailored white blouse under a fall of sun-bright hair.
"Éowyn," he said, the name torn from him before conscious thought could intervene.
Green eyes widened, and he fell: inexplicably, inevitably.
It looked like he would be staying a little longer than he'd originally had in mind.