Title: Let Us Begin
Summary: When you're going through hell, keep going.
Categorization: Drama, Gen
A/N: Written for the Twenty Characters Meme (i.e. stick two random characters together a write a ficlet.) September 2009.
Let Us Begin
"There was a time I would have found this forest unbelievable," Sha're said, her voice weak and raspy, the warmth of her blood seeping in beneath Bra'tac's armor.
He quickened the pace of his step, dragging the diminutive woman with him. Under the garish makeup and golden regalia of a goddess, he could just make out the girl she must have once been, a girl who would have found the sight of trees growing so close together a miracle.
Having once been a goddess, could she still believe in miracles?
The woods were busy with noise and movement, even in the dark of night, the fires burning in the distance lighting the horizon with false dawn.
"How long will this work?" she asked, her fingers lifting to the device on her neck. It was Tollan, a people Bra'tac had never met, but apparently had once held great technologies in their possession, even if they took most of it to the grave with their once mighty civilization. That great technology had not saved them from the Goa'uld, but for the moment, at least, it appeared to keep Amaunet at bay.
"I do not know," Bra'tac said, pulling them both behind a tree at the approaching sound of pounding footsteps.
The rebellion they found themselves caught in was not one born of liberated Jaffa, but rather the tumultuous rabble of human slaves pushed beyond their endurance for oppression. In many ways it was a more dangerous form of revolution, the long enslaved humans knowing nothing of freedom or a higher goal, but only bloodlust and rage. Anything that got in their way would be destroyed.
Coming upon them, the humans would only see a false goddess and her servant, the tools of their oppression. Rebellion and possession, lack of choice, would mean little to them.
The footsteps passed by them, once more fading into the hum of sound in the distance.
Next to him, Sha're breathed out. "They will not stop searching for me," she said, her fingers tightening on his arm.
Bra'tac turned to her, prepared to dull the truth, to speak the easy lie to keep meager hopes alive, to keep them moving, but having seen the ghost of the girl underneath the smudged makeup, and now the fearless, practical tilt of her chin, the empty words died on his tongue. This was one who deserved the truth.
He nodded. "The chappa'ai will also be heavily guarded. And the device is uncertain," he said, his eyes darting to the contraption on her neck.
She took a moment as if to digest this, flinching closer into his body at the flash and groan of an explosion far too nearby for comfort. Bra'tac adjusted his grip on her and pushed them once more into motion, plowing through the heavier brush.
She did not speak again until they were even deeper into the forest, the weak moonlight shining down through a break in foliage.
"If the device should fail…," she said as they picked their way carefully across a stream.
Bra'tac looked down, catching sight of her feet encased in impractical, delicate heels, the way her step was determined and steady in spite of them, splashing through the water without hesitation.
"I will know how to act," he assured her.
She nodded, giving him a tremulous smile. "I only ask that you be quick," she said. Her jaw tightened. "Amaunet must not rise again." He saw the fear now, under her resolve. It did nothing to diminish her.
"I am your servant," Bra'tac said with a short bow of his head.
The look she gave him was close to rebuke, her lips pressing together in disapproval as one hand swept the gentle gold crown from her head, letting it fall carelessly to the stones and dirt under their feet. "No," she corrected. "You are my akhserr, my brother-in-arms. And though our options seem limited, I am not prepared to fall to your sharp aim just yet."
She seemed to have come into focus, the shock of wound and free-will fading as she took in the forest around them, the chaos spilling free behind them in the distance. She pointed toward the low rising hills on the distant edge of the valley. "Less than a day's walk to the east are a series of caves. Emergency supplies and a tel'tac are kept there. Few know of it. And certainly not the slaves."
Bra'tac's eyes followed the gesture, analyzing the distance to the rising hills, the darkness masking the angle of ascent, creating deep shadows across the face. They would be lucky to see the night through, Bra'tac knew, let alone complete a day's journey.
He believed she saw something of his doubt in his face, but did not mirror it in her own. She tilted her head to one side, half-entreaty, half-challenge. "Shall we not see if we can put Amaunet's paranoia to good use?"
Bra'tac felt a smile tug at his lips. "Come, kinswoman," he said, wrapping his arm around her waist. "If your husband's people have taught me anything, it is of the value of never letting your step falter, no matter how steep the terrain."
Her smile was grim, but her voice steady. "Then let us begin."