Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 nor anything in the Stargate franchise belongs to me. Instead, they belong to their respective owners, including, but not limited to: MGM, Gekko, etc. I make no claim to this nor any ideas taken from the show, only original characters and plot lines. No money was made from the writing of this story.
Rating: Upper Teens. Rated Teen for graphic images, disturbing ideas, sci-fi action. Further warnings shall be posted if need be.
Summary: A nightmare, followed by a series of questionable events, leads SG-1 deep into the heart of a millennium old bargain. Will they escape with their sanity? Or, more importantly, their lives?
Timeframe: Season 7
A/N: Hmph...well I most certainly wasn't expecting to be writing this. In fact, this is my latest idea, and I usually attempt to write in descending, not ascending order. However, I decided I simply HAD to write this. I can't promise you frequent or regular updates, so I apologize and warn you in advance. I have just started school again, and as such, I have very little time on my hands to write much at all (and I'm currently working on another project as well.) However, I just couldn't let this rot away in my documents, because I know that if I don't go ahead and post it, the story will never come to fruition. Please read, I would love it if you would review, but most of all, I hope that you enjoy this!
Of Jackals and Shadows
Chapter 1: Of Dreams and Fire
Shadows trailed around her body, their tips brushing her with a tantalizing pain, the serpentine vines entwining in her hair. She struggled to force air into her abused lungs, sucking in the putrid air through her mouth. Even so, the filthy, vile stench coated her tongue, filling her with the same nauseating feeling of pain, blood and vomit. Suddenly, she found herself wondering why she wasn't moving, why she wasn't attempting to escape. She threw herself forward, her mind begging her legs to move, for her feet to take her weight. Even before her right foot came down to rest on the torn earth, however, she knew it was a hopeless cause. Her leg collapsed and she fell, her shoulder slamming into the rock strewn ground, the jagged ridges of scorched soil tearing through her skin. She rolled, curling herself into a ball as the snaking tendrils of shadow coalesced, the edges billowing like a fog blowing in the wind. It was as if the shadow was tearing, a second, more concrete figure ripping through the threads of darkness. The four legged creature trotted forward, its hackles raised, its head lowered close to the ground. It came to a halt a few feet away from her, its lips writhing back to bare ivory teeth in a feral grin. A cackle issued from between its separated teeth, the darkness behind it flaring in response to the sound.
Sam sat up, the blanket that had been lying across her legs falling to the ground in a crumpled heap. Fear coursed through her body like a narcotic venom, slowing her actions and stilling her mind into a frighteningly slow stumble. In the distance, she could dimly hear someone screaming. It took her a few, eternal seconds for her to realize that it was herself. As soon as the thought penetrated her numbed mind, her mouth closed, cutting off the shrill cry.
A figure beside her sat up abruptly, moving almost instantly to come to rest by her side.
"Carter. Carter!" O'Neill yelled, gripping her shoulders. Sam looked up, her own, wide eyes meeting his own steady gaze. Something around her snapped, and it was as if the world suddenly resumed its natural balance, time resuming its usual course. Sam broke free of Jack's grip, staggering to her feet and stumbling outside before she fell to her knees and threw up.
A few seconds later, she felt someone beside her, one comforting hand on her back, another gently holding the hair up out of her face. Sam coughed, then sat back, shivering. Wordlessly, Daniel handed her a water bottle, which Sam accepted gratefully, using the tepid water to rinse the vile taste out of her mouth. A taste which brought an unpleasant pang of fear as pictures from the dream assaulted her once again.
First one minute, then a second, lapsed by in silence. Finally, Daniel stood, proffering a hand to Sam. She took it gratefully, and her friend helped her to her feet. Daniel turned back to reenter the house, but Sam stopped, clutching his fingers tightly. Looking back, Daniel sighed slightly, but turned away from the welcoming golden glow that issued from inside the mud and stone dwelling, realizing that, at that moment, Sam needed a friend more than he needed sleep.
Still holding Sam's hand in his, Daniel led his friend off of the stone path that lead to the door, guiding her instead into the lush gardens that encircled the guest house that the four members of SG-1 had been graciously granted for the duration of their stay. Finding a stone bench secreted beneath two delicately waving palm trees, the two of them sat, Daniel attempting to provide what little comfort he could.
Sam gazed upward, over the wall that granted the house protection, her gaze fastened on the brightly twinkling stars that glittered high above their heads, her thoughts roaming.
Finally, Daniel broke the silence that enveloped the two of them. "Are you okay?" he asked tentatively, his voice fraught with worry.
"What?" Sam asked, finally tearing her eyes away from the heavenly orbs above her. "Oh, um, yeah," she said, although she wasn't even able to convince herself of the fact. Daniel, unsurprisingly, looked at her skeptically.
"Sam, I've known you for seven years. What happened?"
"It was a nightmare, Daniel," Sam snapped. "What else do you expect?"
"Yeah, well last time I checked, most nightmares didn't wake you up screaming. And I've seen you throw up a total of four times, I think, and one of them was because of food poisoning." Daniel left it at that, trusting his friend's mind to be able to fill in what he hadn't said as easily as if he had spoken the words aloud.
Sam understood what Daniel was implying. What was so bad that it made you puke?
"I don't know what it was, Daniel," Sam said softly. "It was…it was like nothing I'd ever seen before – me or Jolinar, for that matter." Sam trailed off, unsure of what else to say, taking comfort from the stolid warmth of Daniel's fingers around hers.
Daniel waited in silence for a few more minutes, waiting to see if Sam would disclose anything else about whatever it was that she had dreamt of. She was not so forthcoming. He contemplated pushing her for more information, but then decided against it. She was calming down on her own, her shivering subsiding, her breathing evening out.
Finally, Daniel asked, "Ready to go back in?"
"Yeah," Sam replied after a moment's pause, releasing Daniel's fingers. "And Daniel?" she said, stopping him before they stepped out of the shadows under the palm trees. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Of course," Daniel answered automatically, although he wasn't entirely sure what she was thanking him for. What had he done? He had been there, sat by her, listened to her, been a friend to comfort her and help allay her fears. And that had been enough.
Together, the two members of SG-1 entered the brightly lit room, their bare feet hitting the stone floor with dull thumps. Teal'c was sitting in a corner of the room kelno'reeming, his face thrown into sharp relief by the shadows that lurked along the walls. O'Neill was lounging on his bedroll, fiddling with his knife as he waited for the two of them to return.
"Well there you two are, I was beginning to wonder if the natives kidnapped you," Jack drawled from his position on the floor. He didn't question either Sam or Daniel about what had happened, something for which Carter was very grateful.
"Not funny Jack," Daniel quipped, sitting down on his own sleeping bag. Sam took her own place, sitting cross-legged with her back against the rough, cream colored stone wall. She looked around the room, letting the vague familiarity of her surroundings set her at ease.
It was a simple dwelling, comprised of only one room. In the far corner stood a simple stove, live coals burning cherry red underneath the thin stone slate that was set over top of the shimmering bed of embers, the stone resting on four bricks. Beside it rose a counter, an odd assortment of clay pots and containers littering the top with a messy order. A bucket filled with clean water rested on the other side of the stove. A small curtain hung around another corner, the rich red of the drape hiding the small section serving as a temple. The four bedrolls were spaced throughout the rest of the empty floor, all four members of SG-1 electing to sleep in their own sleeping bags rather than the prickly, uncomfortable beds provided for them by their hosts. Lamps stood on shelves that lined the walls, each flame filling the room with a steady glow.
"So, Daniel, what do you think of this place?" Jack asked, clapping his hands together.
"You asked me that same question just a few hours ago," Daniel replied, "and my view on it hasn't changed a bit in the last two hour. They seem to be ancient Egyptian, their level of advancement and technology not much more advanced than they were on our own Earth. They serve most of the ancient Egyptian gods, but primarily Anubis, Osiris, and Apophis – which, I might add, is an interesting combination, especially if you look back at Earth's own mythology. Strangely enough, they don't appear to be slaves or ruled by a specific System Lord. But, like I said, I've already told you all of this."
"Right," O'Neill said. "So, we can just pack up and go home tomorrow, right?" O'Neill asked.
"But Jack, I thought you said we could stay for three days," Daniel objected, a slight whine in his voice.
"Yes, Daniel, that is what I said. But I'm changing my mind." Jack looked at Daniel significantly, flicking his gaze to Sam, who was currently staring at her hands, which were folded in her lap. "I don't want anything to go wrong with this mission, and, as I'm sure you've noticed, when one thing starts looking funny, there's usually something else that follows close behind."
"Oh," was all Daniel replied, finally getting at what exactly Jack was hinting at.
"With all due respect, Sir," Carter said, looking up and locking her gaze with O'Neill's, "we don't have to leave on my account. It was just a nightmare – there's nothing strange about that. Besides, I'm a big girl; I can handle a few bad dreams."
"I wasn't implying you couldn't, Major," O'Neill replied evenly. "But I have this funny feeling," he explained. "You know the one…that strange tingling that you get when you realize something a little 'not cool' is going to happen?" he asked, drawing quotations through the air with his fingers. He merely decided to leave out the fact that it was her nightmare that had brought that very feeling prickling up his spine, causing the small, fine hairs on the back of his neck to quiver.
"I agree with O'Neill," Teal'c said, speaking up from his corner by the doorway. His eyes opened as he observed his friends and their discussion.
The last bit of argument left Sam, leaving her feeling exhausted and emotionally drained.
"Good, it's settled then," Jack announced, seeing the resignation in Carter's eyes as she looked down at her lap once again. "We'll give our apologies to Ol'kef, or whatever his name is, and head back home." With that, he stood, walking around the room, shuttering each of the lamps so that only a faint glow pervaded the room.
Reluctantly, Sam settled back into her sleeping bag, her gaze riveted on one of the lamps as her mind sought something to keep it from travelling down a dark, painful path. The lamp reminded her of a firefly, in a way, with its tail flashing its calm, reassuring golden light as it danced through the trees in the falling twilight, illuminating the green fronds of the trees. The small insects had been one of the most relaxing and most enjoyable things about living in Georgia, even better than the colorful explosions of flowers that would line the highways in early spring. Even better than the solitary peace that you could find in the small copses of trees, where you didn't have to worry about grizzlies or mountain lions.
Without even realizing it, Sam slipped out of consciousness and into a light doze.
An explosion shook the brick house, causing a light rain of dust to filter through the humid air. Sam awoke almost instantly, her eyes snapping open as a second explosion sent a flair of light filtering through the open doorway. Once again, the sturdy structure shook from the shock wave, more dust and fragments of clay and straw drifting through the air to join the already fallen chips lying on the floor.
Teal'c suddenly appeared in the doorway, his face grave as he turned to face O'Neill, who was hurriedly gathering supplies.
"Teal'c, what's going on?" O'Neill asked, his head snapping around to face the Jaffa. Out of the corner of her eye, Sam could see Daniel continuing to sleep, tangled up in his blankets.
"The village is under attack, O'Neill," Teal'c responded. "By whom, I am unsure. However, I doubt that it is any neighboring village. These people did not seem to possess the knowledge necessary to form explosives."
Yet another explosion filled the night sky with a searing heat and flying debris, and Sam's eyes went wide at the proximity of the sudden gout of flame. Throwing the blanket off of her, she scrambled to her feet, hurrying to kneel by Daniel, who had yet to waken.
"Daniel," Sam hissed, shaking him a little.
"Wha-what?" Daniel grumbled as he was shaken out of a deep slumber. "Sam?" he asked, surprised. "Is everything alright?"
"We're under attack," O'Neill said, answering for Sam. "Hurry and pack," he ordered. "We're leaving."
"But wait, Jack," Daniel said, scrambling to his feet as well, all sleep driven completely out of his mind, "we can't just up and leave them." Another explosion shook the house, this time much closer than any of the others. "They won't be able to fight against whatever it is that's attacking them. They aren't nearly advanced enough."
"Daniel, I honestly don't really care right now," Jack barked. "I'm more concerned with getting the four of us out of a combat zone safe and unscathed. This was supposed to be an easy, run-of-the-mill, meet'n'greet, remember?"
"Yeah, but Jack…" Daniel trailed off, searching for another argument.
"No buts, Daniel. We're leaving. Pack up, and that's an order." Resignedly, Daniel complied, joining the other three members of his team a few minutes later as he hoisted his pack onto his back.
"Let's move out," Jack said, turning and exiting the dwelling.
Searing heat filled the night sky – a heat very different from the humid warmth that pervaded the air around the river that ran through the village, Sam noted. Smoke curled around the stars, blotting out the red-tinged sky with menacing gray tendrils. As the four members of SG-1 exited through the gate in the stone wall that surrounded their temporary living quarters, they saw fires burning in the street, the flames flickering from fallen debris.
Together, with O'Neill leading the way, SG-1 trotted down the deserted roads, their goal the rolling sand dunes that surrounded the small village. Once they were out of the village, they could strike for the Gate, and home.
As they ran, a niggling doubt pierced Sam's mind. As she looked around, it finally fell into place.
"No one's here," she muttered to herself. Teal'c heard her as well, however, and he turned his head to gaze at his blonde friend.
Noticing this, Jack looked over his shoulder. "What was that, Carter?" he asked.
"There aren't any survivors out here, Sir. It's as if everyone is just…gone; like they were taken." Or killed, Sam thought, but she didn't voice that opinion.
"Hm," grunted Jack, logging the information away to be pondered upon at a later time. He turned forward once again, just in time to smash into a rippling blue force field.
O'Neill fell back, landing on his back with a puff of sand and a rush of air expelled from his lungs.
"Jack, are you alright?" Daniel asked, rushing forward to kneel beside his fallen friend.
"Yes Daniel, I'm just spiffing," Jack spat. "My nose is just tingling like nobody's business." He sat up with a groan, massaging the offended body part. "Carter, why is there a force field around the village? Last time I checked, this was open road."
"Uh, I'm not sure Sir," Sam replied, her brows creasing as she stepped forward to get a better look at the force field. She smacked her hand against the smooth, glass-like surface, watching as the rippling blue lights spiraled out from the contact in waves. "I hate to tell you this, Sir, but it looks Goa'uld."
"Great, just great," O'Neill grumbled, picking himself up. "Now we need to find another entrance to the village.
"But Sir, why would they choose to block this entrance?" Sam asked, a chill of realization beginning to settle in the pit of her stomach.
"What are you meaning?" O'Neill asked.
"Well, Sir, it would stand to reason that whoever is attacking wouldn't want anyone to escape. If that's the case, then they wouldn't merely blockade one entrance…"
"So they'd put a force field around the entire village," Daniel supplied.
"I have never heard of, nor experienced any Goa'uld tactic such as this," Teal'c stated as the four of them turned back the way that they had come.
"Great," Jack muttered, leading the group back the way they had come.
A sudden explosion behind them sent all four tumbling to the ground. Teal'c was the first to regain his feet, closely followed by O'Neill and Carter. Reaching down, Sam helped Daniel to his feet.
"Where the hell did that come from?" Jack cursed, spitting grime out of his mouth.
A whining sound pierced the scorched air, and Teal'c yelled, "MOVE!"
Without hesitation, Sam lunged forward, only to be thrown off of her feet a second time as a second explosion rocked the air. The sound of three other bodies hitting the ground hard struck her as she struggled to force searing air down her ragged throat.
"Move, move, move," Jack yelled over the roar of the fire, staggering to his feet. "Drop your packs and run!" he ordered as yet another whining sound sliced through the night sky.
Sam reached up, unclasping the buckles that held her pack to her shoulders. It fell to the ground with a thud and she turned, snagging Daniel's hand as he struggled to free himself from the oppressive weight.
The whine increased in intensity, heralding the oncoming explosion.
"I can't get it off!" Daniel yelled, frantically tugging at the buckles. He staggered forward, but the weight was dragging him down, holding him a prisoner of the ground. Sam knelt by his side, reaching down to pull the pack off of his back, only to discover the reason that he had been having so much difficulty. The plastic buckles had been melted together.
She frantically tore at the material, trying to separate the straps. Suddenly, Colonel O'Neill was kneeling by her side, a knife flashing in his hands. He hurriedly sliced the pack into shreds, and Sam grabbed Daniel's wrist, yanking him to his feet as the pack fell to the ground.
Together, the three of them sprinted forward. The explosion behind them was frighteningly close, the shock wave, once again, blasting them off of their feet. Teal'c was suddenly amongst them, helping Daniel up and urging him onward.
Sam rolled onto her back, coughing and gasping. A large hand appeared in her field of vision, and she took it gratefully, the large Jaffa pulling her to her feet. Yet another whine filled the air.
"Come on! Really?" Jack yelled, anger rife in his voice, before he took off running down the roadway. Sam followed him, Daniel at her side. She could feel Teal'c behind them, his solid presence reassuring even in this suddenly crazed world.
This time, when the explosion lanced up into the sky, they were far enough away that none of them were sent careening to the ground. For that, Sam was very grateful. She was going to be sore and bruised from the three falls that she had already experienced.
And yet, the explosions did not let up. Yet another whine filled the smoky air, and Sam cursed to herself. And then she realized what was happening.
"They're herding us!" she yelled over the boom behind them. "They're using the explosions to herd us!"
"Then they their job," O'Neill yelled back, sliding to a stop as he burst into the town's center.
Sam came to a staggering halt a little behind him. They were standing at an entrance to the central square, a large statue standing proudly in the center. People milled about the sandy space, a few of them sitting by the walls. Many of them were wailing or calling for loved ones, and some of them were covered in blood.
The final explosion behind them sent Sam ducking down as shrapnel and debris flew over their heads, raining them with tiny bits of stone and a multitude of sand. Coughing, she staggered into the protective walled square, Daniel and O'Neill hot on her heels.
"What do we do now?" Daniel asked as the four of them knelt in a circle by the entrance.
O'Neill had just opened his mouth to answer the archaeologist, when the sound of metal booted feet tramped through the far entrance to the square. A few seconds later, a second patrol of Jaffa entered the square from the opening a few feet away from where SG-1 was taking refuge.
"Great. This day just keeps getting better and better," O'Neill groused.
"You there, move in with the others," one of the Jaffa ordered, breaking away from the main contingent. He brandished his staff weapon, threatening the four humans.
"Sir, we don't want to bring attention to ourselves, especially if no one has recognized us yet," Carter hissed to O'Neill as his mouth opened to give one of his snarky retorts. Seeing the wisdom in the major's words, O'Neill's mouth shut with a snick.
"Did you not hear me?" the Jaffa asked. "Move!"
"We're going, we're going," Jack shot back, standing and leading the way to mingle with the planet's natives.
Sam slipped in amongst the natives, following Daniel as he squirmed his way through the crushing mass of people. Finally, she halted when they were in the approximate center, standing shoulder to shoulder with Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill.
A voice rang out through the square, silencing the people's murmuring. Now, the only sound that filled the air was the crackling of the fires in the tows and the man's large, ringing voice.
"People of Rendon, you have been summoned by a great god. He wishes your attendance. And who are you to refuse? Come with us, and you will find glory eternal!"
"Something makes me think that this isn't going to be a voluntary act," Daniel muttered, a frown looking permanently fixated onto his face.
"Split into groups of ten persons each," the man ordered over the murmur that filled the square at the end of his statement.
Jaffa were suddenly among the throngs of people, shepherding them into small groups with harsh words and shoves. As the Jaffa drew closer, Jack suddenly removed his hat, tossing it to Teal'c.
"Wear this. We don't want them realizing that you're a fellow Jaffa," he said. Seeing the wisdom in the words, Teal'c carefully pulled the green cap over his forehead, pulling the bill down to hide his forehead.
And then the Jaffa were beside them.
"Ten. Groups of ten," they were ordering, shoving people into each other as they were separated into the groups. A Jaffa stopped in beside Sam.
"You four, move in with that group," he ordered, although a strange look flitted across his face. It was obvious that they were not like the others, but he dismissed the fact. His god had ordered all those in the village to be brought to him, and so bring them he would. He reached forward to give the woman a push, but she artfully ducked away, ducking away behind a shorter man.
"You heard the man, let's go," O'Neill said, leading the way toward small gathering of people that the Jaffa had pointed to. Sam followed, carefully avoiding contact with any of the Jaffa. She figured that they did not need to realize that she was a former host.
"Keep an eye out for any chances to escape," O'Neill muttered as they joined the group.
A few moments lapsed past in quiet. The silence grated on Sam's nerves, but she didn't want to break the fragile balance that seemed to have been established. At least there weren't any Jaffa surrounding them currently. However, they were near the very center of the square, and had little to no chance of making it through any of the entrances before they were cut down.
The sorting done, a red-haired Jaffa joined the group, standing at attention beside the small gathering. He glanced sideways at his group. From that moment on, he would be responsible for this group of natives. His chest swelled with pride as he turned his attention forward again.
Sam eyed the Jaffa that had joined them with a wary, calculating eye. He looked sure of himself, confident, and arrogant. Perhaps, if they were to be moved to the Stargate, then they would have a chance of overpowering him and escaping.
A warm tingle enveloped her, and she felt the unique pull of a beaming device yanking at her skin. A few seconds later, she found herself standing in the cargo bay of a large ship, the walls decorated with gold filigree and ancient hieroglyphs.
"Move along," their Jaffa escort barked, herding the ten people forward before Sam could get a better view of their surroundings.
They exited the cargo bay and were ushered through hallway after hallway, the maze dizzying after only a few turns. Finally, they came to halt outside a plain door. The Jaffa triggered the opening, and shoved them through.
Unable to stay quiet any longer, Jack turned to walk backwards so he could face the Jaffa. "Really?" he quipped. "Can't you guys ever think of anything more original?" His voice echoed eerily around the brig, the tramp of his boots clanging on the metal floor.
The Jaffa, to his undying credit, ignored the colonel, merely opened the metal door of a cell.
"Enter," he ordered, conducting them into the large cage. The natives of the planet did so without question or hesitation merely plodded into confinement. As soon as they were inside, many of them sat or lay down, looking as if they had no strength left.
Reluctantly, Sam followed Daniel inside. She wished that they could refuse, but she knew that it would be pointless, at least at this point. They turned once they were inside their metal prison, gazing out through the bars with distaste. O'Neill was shoved inside, almost falling into Teal'c as he lost his footing.
"Why don't you at least tell us who you serve?" Jack snapped, turning as the heavy, metal door clanged shut behind him.
The Jaffa smirked, but didn't answer, merely left the brig with a smug bounce in his step. O'Neill looked at his fellow teammates, a grimace fixed onto his face.
"Gah," he grumbled, turning away to find an empty corner in which to sit.
The sound of the door opening again drew his attention back outside the cell. The brig door slid open, and a dark figure marched through the opening, its black armor gleaming.
"Oh shit," Jack cursed, his eyes fastened on the soldier walking past. The Kull warrior's head turned, the large, beetle-like eyes of his helmet fastening on the man before turning back front. After a few more steps, it came to a halt beside the cell door, falling into an easy attention.
"Why does everything have to be so difficult for us?" Jack asked rhetorically, burying his face in his hands and scrubbing his eyes with his palms.
"Because we're SG-1?" Daniel suggested. Jack merely made a noncommittal sound in his throat, before sliding down to sit on the cold, hard floor of the cell. A few minutes later, Sam joined him, pleased that they at least had a corner to themselves.
Everything had happened so fast. First the explosions shepherding them to the square, and then the Jaffa coming before they could even formulate a secondary plan, then the breaking up into small groups, and then only a few moments later being transported up to the ship. And then they hadn't even had a chance to try to escape while they had been escorted to the prison cell.
Why didn't we try something? Sam wondered, staring out at the dully gleaming armor of the Kull warrior. And what's going on? We've never encountered anything of the sort. And what's wrong with the natives? They look resigned more than anything else.
Unbidden, memories of her dream surfaced to the forefront of her mind, and she couldn't help but shiver as she remembered the cackling laugh of the beast. Her roaming eyes suddenly latched onto a raised hieroglyph in the wall opposite her – a jackal. She gasped, her eyes going wide with realization.
Anubis, according to Egyptian mythology, was the jackal god.
The jackal cackled, its ivory teeth gleaming in the faint moonlight, the shadow flaring in response to the sound.