It was a landing only by courtesy, and also because of Jack who insisted that "any landing you walked away from was a good landing."
Not that Jack was here to offer that pearl of Air Force wisdom, although with the ringing in his ears Daniel almost thought he heard him for a second.
Not that Daniel was going to be walking away from it. But hey, he was still alive. That counted for something.
"Teal'c, you okay?" Daniel asked.
"I am functional, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c replied, "although I will need much time in kel'no'reem."
For Teal'c to only claim 'functional,' he must be in serious pain. Daniel tried to look over to the other side of the al'kesh where Teal'c had been sitting, and almost passed out. That … that hadn't been a good idea.
"Are you well, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.
Daniel started, wondering how long he'd been sitting there contemplating how much he hurt. "I've got a concussion for sure," he said. He thought for a second and tried some experimental wiggling in place. "Everything hurts. And I'm kinda stuck here." He thought for a second. "My leg really hurts." He was kind of glad the wreckage meant he didn't have to look at it.
Teal'c said something.
"Hmm?" Daniel said.
"Are you bleeding?"
"I don't know?" Daniel said. "I can't see most of me." He tilted his head a bit and saw something he hadn't noticed before. "Oh. Yeah, there's blood."
"I believe I can free myself, and you," Teal'c said.
"That's good," Daniel said. That was the last thing Daniel remembered for a while.
Teal'c had been more seriously injured in his life, but usually in those times he had had time to rest and recuperate before strenuous activity. If he were alone, he would have remained where he was and meditated before freeing himself. But given Daniel Jackson's condition, he dared not take the time. The concussion he could do nothing about, and if the bleeding was coming from the femoral artery his friend was likely already dead, but if the blood was coming from somewhere else, the time it took to staunch it might be critical. Also, Doctor Frasier's lessons in first aid had stressed the hazards of the condition humans sometimes fell prey to called "shock."
Jaffa got concussions, and bled, the same as humans, although they were quicker to heal; Jaffa did not go into shock. For this reason, Teal'c was warier of it than other things.
The first thing to do was to free himself. In perfect health, it would not have been difficult; his position was awkward but the debris was not heavy. But there was damage in his abdomen. None to his prim'ta, but to his internal organs. He could feel it moving as it worked to fix its home. From the feel as he shoved the wreckage clear of himself, he undid some of its work. Still, he was free, and could now stand. From his new vantage point, Teal'c surveyed the damage to the ship.
Daniel Jackson was slumped sideways on the deck, and the lower half of his body was pinned by wreckage. He had a head wound, which bled as such things always did, but there did seem to be blood coming from somewhere else seeping out on to the deck.
The wreckage had fallen and jammed into a peculiar configuration. Puzzling out how to free Daniel Jackson took a few minutes' study. But at last he grasped a particular piece and tugged it free, wincing at the pain in his midsection.
It would indeed take much time for his prim'ta to heal the internal damage, particularly if he had to keep undoing its work, he reflected.
A few more adjustments to the wreckage left it at least temporarily stable enough to remove Daniel Jackson out from under it. He regained consciousness briefly and tried to help, but was not successful enough to be more help than hindrance.
"Lie still, Daniel Jackson, and allow me to free you," Teal'c said.
"'Kay," he said muzzily.
With Daniel Jackson still, Teal'c could reach under and around him to free his leg from the wreckage. Daniel Jackson shouted and passed out again as he moved the leg—it was most definitely broken, but the bone was not protruding from the skin, which was a good sign.
That done, Teal'c grabbed his friend under the shoulders and heaved him out from under the wreckage. The bleeding was serious, but not life-threatening, if stopped immediately, so Teal'c tore strips off Daniel Jackson's clothing to bind his wounds.
Tending to Daniel Jackson would have been much easier if they were in their SGC uniforms, with lots of pockets and pouches filled with everything from ammunition to first aid supplies. But the two of them had been undercover on a reconnaissance mission, and so Teal'c was in armor (complete with Khnum's ram-shaped helmet, discarded in the corner), while Daniel Jackson was in the nondescript robes of an unimportant human slave. They had infiltrated the palace and retrieved what information they could (although less than they had hoped for; the identity of Tanith's overlord remained a mystery). In the process, Khnum's lo'taur had noticed something amiss and called the guard on them. Cut off from the Stargate, they had stolen this Tel'tak. And being a Goa'uld vessel, it would carry no first-aid kit.
With Daniel Jackson's wounds bandaged as best he could manage, Teal'c dragged him over to the clearest and most stable-looking portion of the craft remaining. He straightened and set the broken leg as best he could before leaving to search the craft for anything useful. The cistern was full, and there was a canteen, which he filled; there was also a blanket tucked forgotten in a niche. That was good; judging by the change in light, night was falling, and Daniel Jackson would need to be kept warm.
They were very vulnerable; the viewscreens had shattered in the crash, leaving gaping holes. The wreckage was enough to impede movement, but not stable enough to form barricades. And Teal'c's staff weapon was gone; either it had been destroyed in the crash, or thrown from the ship, or was now buried somewhere in the wreckage he could not see. If there were people on this planet, whatever it was, Teal'c would have only his hands to defend them. And Daniel Jackson was unarmed and would not be in any condition to fight for some time. But there was nothing to be done about it, and if there were hostile inhabitants, it would be better to face them rested and as healed as possible.
Mindful of the turmoil of his prim'ta, Teal'c gathered the blanket and water and returned to Daniel Jackson's side. He woke the other man long enough to give him some water, and then lay down beside him, spreading the blanket over both of them to preserve warmth, and entered kel'no'reem.
Teal'c heard the intruders and roused from kel'no'reem before they clambered inside the tel'tak, but he had little time to do more than rise up to meet them, with Daniel Jackson behind him. He chose an open posture, loose-limbed, but light on his feet and ready to attack or defend as necessary.
They were human, with the short, wiry stature that spoke to less nutrition than the Tau'ri were used to, and wearing the sort of loose robes common to warm deserts. Both wore curved knives at their belts.
They gaped at him. "You—you're a Jaffa," one of them said, hand going to her knife.
"I am," Teal'c said. He was larger, stronger, and had longer reach than either of the humans. He could hear no one else, and although his injuries were not yet fully healed, he would likely be able to disarm and overpower them, should it become necessary.
"Who do you serve?" the second one asked, staring at him as one might gaze upon a mythical creature. She had the gawkiness of an adolescent. Her companion jabbed her in the arm.
"Stupid," said the first one, "don't you see the snake? Isn't that Apep?" She looked like an adult, though just barely, although Teal'c was not good at judging human ages. Her skin was darker than his, and her hair was in tight ringlets.
"Isn't Apep an enemy of Juno?" the second one asked. They looked alike enough to be sisters, though if it was a small community, looks might be deceptive.
Teal'c relaxed slightly. Juno was dead, had been killed long before his birth. If they still worshipped her, no other Goa'uld had come to take her place here, and thus no Goa'uld would learn of their crash.
"Apophis is dead," Teal'c said. "He is a false god. I serve him no longer."
"Gods can't die," the second one said, with all the scorn of an adolescent.
"But if Apep—Apophis—wasn't really a god," the first one said. "Then, I guess he could …" she trailed off, squinting into the shadows behind Teal'c. "Oh! Is your friend hurt?" Her hand was still at her knife, but she was no longer tensed to draw it.
"Daniel Jackson was injured in the crash," Teal'c said. "Is the chappa'ai near? If I can use it, I can call for our healer."
Teal'c's heart sank. "The stargate. The ring of the Goa'uld which they use to walk from planet to planet."
"I think Juno always came in a sky-chariot like yours," the older one said.
"It was a lot bigger than this, in the stories," the younger one said.
"Well, yeah, but the priest never talks about her walking to other planets."
"Are any of Juno's sky-chariot's near?" Teal'c asked. If they had been here since her death, they might or might not be spaceworthy, but the communication system might be functional. Behind him, he could hear Daniel Jackson stirring, which eased his worry for his friend.
"Why would one of Juno's chariots be here when she isn't?" the younger one said, wrinkling her nose up.
"Maybe places the gods go more often have more of their things," the older one said.
"Teal'c?" Daniel said. "Who are our visitors?"
"Forgive my rudeness, Jaffa, but I don't think we introduced ourselves?" the older one said. "I am Nensela and this is my sister Tabiry."
"I am Teal'c." He bowed to them.
"And my name is Daniel."
Teal'c glanced behind him to see Daniel Jackson attempt to sit up. "You should remain lying down," he said, noting the way the other man wavered.
Daniel Jackson winced. "Yeah. I think you're right."
"Well, we can't give you a working sky-chariot, Teal'c," said Tabiry, "and we don't have a ring of the gods, but our village is not far from here, and we do have a healer there."
"My leg is broken," Daniel Jackson said. "I don't think I'm going to be walking any distance. Hopping, maybe."
"Kaditede, our healer, is very good with broken bones," said Nensela. "She'd probably be willing to come and set it for you, and then we could carry you back."
"That is a very kind offer," Daniel Jackson said. "Thank you."
Such a local healer would not, of course, be as good as Doctor Frasier, but she would at least know more of human injuries than Teal'c did.
"I have to get back to the herd," Nensela said. "I can send Tabiry for Kaditede—I assume you'll want to stay with your friend?" She looked inquiringly at Teal'c.
"Yes," Teal'c said. "Thank you for your assistance."
"Do you have water?" Nensela asked.
"We do," Teal'c said.
"Good," she said.
Daniel watched as the two young women walked out of sight, and waited for Teal'c to relax. His leg was in agony from the attempt to sit up, his head was almost worse, and unless he held very still he was probably going to throw up. It was a good thing the locals had proven friendly so far, as he was in no state to defend himself.
"Can we contact the SGC?" he asked, when Teal'c moved at last.
"I do not know," Teal'c said. "I have not yet had time to check. I was still in kel'no'reem when Nensela and Tabiry arrived."
As he moved to the pilot's controls—or what was left of them, at least—Daniel closed his eyes and tried to think through the pounding in his head. "Well, even if we can't get off any kind of distress call, we weren't too far off the course back to Earth when the hyperdrive failed. Jor'auc should be able to get word out that we fled by ship, assuming he survived." Jor'auc was one of Khnum's Jaffa, and a spy for the Free Jaffa. He was the one that had tipped them off that there were interesting things afoot in Khnum's realm. Very few Goa'uld were interested in technological development, and Khnum had (until recently) been included in that. Damn, he hoped the Goa'uld weren't wising up.
"I do not believe Jor'auc was under suspicion even after our discovery," Teal'c said.
"Right," Daniel said. "So when we don't show up at Earth, they'll ask Bra'tac to check the straightest route to Earth, and then they'll find us."
"This planet does not seem to have a stargate, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "And they will check the planets with stargates first."
"Good thing we know where Bra'tac is right now, then," Daniel said. He sighed. "If we're lucky, he'll have a ship he can use and someone to send looking." If he checked every planet along the route, he would eventually find them. But space was big, and that was probably a lot of planets. It would be a lot easier if they could just call home and tell them where to find them. "How's it looking, Teal'c?"
"This ship suffered extensive damage during our escape, and even more in the crash," Teal'c said. "The communications systems are beyond my skill to repair."
"Where's Sam when you need her," Daniel said.
"It might even be beyond Major Carter's abilities," Teal'c said. "There is very little left intact."
"Wow, that's really bad, if Sam couldn't fix it," Daniel said. He swallowed as a wave of nausea swept over him. Besides the unpleasantness of vomiting, he could tell from the air that they were in an arid place, and he didn't know how much water they had. He couldn't afford to become dehydrated.
"How much water do we have?" he asked.
"The ship's tank is full," Teal'c said. "I estimate that it would last the two of us at least two weeks, if we were restricted our movements. However, there is no food."
"I'm sure you could hunt, but the locals might have things to say about that," Daniel said. "And if it's as dry out there as it feels like it is, they'll definitely have something to say if we try to use any of their wells or oases without permission. And it will probably take longer than two weeks for the SGC to find us. I wonder if the locals will take us in—that seems like our best bet."
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
"So, did you learn anything about them before I woke up?" Daniel asked.
"They worship Juno, who was killed by Apophis almost two centuries ago," Teal'c said. "They recognized my tattoo as belonging to an enemy of hers, but were placated when I said he was dead."
"So, Goa'uld worshippers who haven't actually seen a Goa'uld in a long time," Daniel said with a sigh. "All the myth, none of the actual practical experience with how petty and cruel the Goa'uld really are. They're not going to want to hear about false gods and evil."
"They are not," Teal'c said heavily.
"And our lives probably depend on keeping them happy," Daniel said. "At least until the SGC finds us."
Teal'c was silent.
"We need to stay close to the ship for the SGC to find us, and they know where it is, so it's too late to hide it. Can you think of a better strategy than just … holding our tongues and going along with the flow?" Daniel asked.
"I cannot," Teal'c said.
"I think I can bite my tongue while they praise Juno," Daniel said. "I mean, I'd love to set them straight, but I can treat it like we're still undercover. What about you, Teal'c?"
"I held my tongue for decades in Apophis' service," Teal'c said.
"So you did, Teal'c," Daniel said. "Sorry for doubting you." He gritted his teeth against a spike of pain.
"You should rest, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "I will keep watch."
"Sorry I can't be of more help," Daniel said.
As Daniel Jackson drifted off to sleep again, Teal'c moved to search the Tel'tak more thoroughly than he had initially done. If nothing else, he wished to find his staff. The ram-headed helmet had somehow become embedded in the wall by one of its horns; it was a design even less practical for combat than Apophis' serpent helmets had been. But then, the Goa'uld never cared for practicalities. He eyed it with distaste.
Teal'c had spent decades in service to the Goa'uld, first proudly, then confusedly, then in shame. He had held his tongue and watched tortures, murders, rapes, and all manner of evil, knowing that nothing he could do would change a thing. He had promised himself, when he fled Chulak with O'Neil and the others that first time, that he would never keep silent again. There had been times, many times, in all the long years of his servitude, when he had almost, almost believed that speaking the truth about Apophis and dying for it would be worth it. Indeed, there had been moments in which only his love for Drey'auc and Ry'ac had made him hold his tongue, for the little ways he had been able to ameliorate Apophis' evils had seemed far too small to count.
And now he would have to hold his tongue again.
It was a different situation, Teal'c knew. Vastly different. There were, almost certainly, no Goa'uld here on this planet, whatever it was. These peoples' belief in Juno was harmless, as Juno was dead and could no longer trouble them. If they had no stargate, and no Goa'uld had bothered to claim them in the time after Juno's death, there was very little chance any Goa'uld would ever come here. No death would result from a mistaken worship, here; no evil of any kind.
There was no reason to risk Daniel Jackson's treatment, or the good graces of the people they would be living amongst.
He did hope, however, that their devotion to false gods would be weak enough that he could risk proclaiming them for what they were.
Teal'c found his staff weapon eventually. It, like everything else he found in the wreckage, was broken beyond his ability to repair.
Daniel gritted his teeth, stared up at the ceiling, and wished for Janet and the good drugs. Not that wishing had ever solved anything, in his experience, but at least it was a little bit of a distraction, both from the pain and from wondering how long it was going to take the SGC to find them. The SGC could find anyone, eventually—they'd found him after he'd descended to a random planet in the middle of nowhere—but that didn't mean they'd find him and Teal'c in a timely manner. He hoped this Kaditede knew what she was doing when she set the leg; it would really suck to need surgery to re-set it when they got back to Earth.
He clenched his hands, feeling his fingernails digging in to his palms. Unfortunately, it didn't do much to distract him from the throbbing in his leg or the pounding in his head, or any of the other serious injuries he had. He never knew whether it was a blessing or a curse that the body didn't remember pain very well; on the one hand, it mean that he could go through life when he wasn't injured without his memories being dominated by the various pain and trauma he'd suffered throughout his time with the Stargate program. On the other hand, whenever he was severely injured, it meant that however bad the pain was right then was effectively the worst pain he'd ever felt.
"How we doing, Teal'c?" he called out, trying to take his mind off of it. "Finding anything?"
"Nothing of note," Teal'c said. "The crash was most destructive."
"Betcha if Sam were here, she could fix it."
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
"Jack couldn't fix the ship, but he could probably turn a lot of it into impromptu weapons or booby traps, if he had to," Daniel continued.
"As could I, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, "were there any need."
"Good to know," Daniel said. Jack had more familiarity with dirty tricks, but Teal'c had more familiarity with tel'taks and Goa'uld ships in general. It probably balanced out. "How are you doing? Need some more kel'no'reem?"
"It would be most useful," Teal'c admitted, "although the need is not pressing."
"Mm." Daniel said. "But would it be better to rest now while you've got the chance?"
"Perhaps," Teal'c said. "But now that the greatest need is met, I would prefer to be alert, should the rest of the local people prove less hospitable than the two we have met. Or if a predator or scavenger should smell the blood, and come looking for us."
"Good point," Daniel said.
They sat in silence for a while. Because they'd been undercover, Daniel hadn't brought along the deck of cards he usually had for times like this. "Wanna play 'I Spy'?"
"It would be a short game, given your limited field of vision," Teal'c pointed out.
"Yeah, the ceiling is pretty boring," Daniel said.
"Can you tell anything about the local people from the two who found us?" Teal'c asked.
"Not much," Daniel said. "Well, except that I think they were speaking a tonal language, underneath what the stargate translation system was giving us. Their names are probably from the Eastern-Sudanic branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family. Which is largely found in north-east Africa, on Earth, along the Nile River and down south from there. The kingdoms of Kush and Meroe, which ruled Egypt for a while, spoke Eastern Sudanic languages. From what we can tell; the whole family tree of Nilo-Saharan is pretty sketchy. Ancient Egyptian and most of the languages spoken throughout the galaxy are from the Egyptian branch of Afroasiatic, which is a completely different language family. So, aside from a few loan-words, their vocabulary and grammar is probably going to be completely foreign. Until we learn it, we're going to be completely dependent on the gate translation system." He paused to lick his lips, and Teal'c lifted his head to help him take a drink from the canteen.
"Given the differences between their language and those spoken by the rest of the galaxy, how well do you think the stargate system will work?" Teal'c asked.
"I don't know," Daniel said. He winced at another shaft of pain broke through his concentration. "It will be a fascinating ethnographic study. I hope Juno left some records behind. If anyone had asked me, before we opened the Stargate, what the ancient Egyptians looked like, I would have said they looked like those two girls. Given the statues and paintings we've uncovered in archaeological digs, before centuries of repeated invasions from Asia and Arabia, the Egyptians were almost certainly closer phenotypically to modern Sudanese than to modern Arabs. But then we went through the Stargate, and found mostly olive-skinned people instead of dark-skinned people. And I've wondered why ever since, and never found an opportunity to find out. Did the Goa'uld prefer lighter-skinned slaves? Are most Stargates in places with lower UV radiation than Egypt? In which case, would a few thousand years be enough time to evolve lighter skin?"
"Radiation?" Teal'c asked.
"Stars emit radiation along with light, and most habitable planets block out most of the harmful stuff," Daniel explained. "UV radiation is the part animals and plants need. Too much of it can be harmful—causes skin cancer—but too little and we get Vitamin D deficiencies. Darker skin blocks more UV. The closer to the equator, the more UV radiation there is, so the darker the skin of ethnic groups that have lived there for a long time. The closer to the poles, the less UV you get, and so you get lighter-skinned ethnic groups."
"Radiation is generally Major Carter's field," Teal'c said.
"Yeah, but it's important for an anthropologist to be aware of what causes some groups to be dark-skinned and others light-skinned. Earth has a long history of really ugly racial bias against people with dark skin."
"Of this I am aware, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, "having encountered some of it in my trips outside the Mountain, and even occasionally within the SGC."
"Really?" Daniel said, disappointed. "I didn't know that." You'd think that people who fought aliens regularly could put aside such petty cruelties among their own, at least.
"It took time to determine what hostility was due to my status as a Jaffa, and what to my appearing to belong to a particular Human ethnic group," Teal'c said. "Even now, the distinction is not always clear, and I suspect the association of 'blackness' with Jaffa because of my own skin color contributes to the dismissive or hostile attitude to my people that sometimes guides Earth's dealings with us."
"I've never noticed that," Daniel said.
"You do not bear the brunt of it," Teal'c said.
"No, I suppose not," Daniel said. "Well, I can't do anything about it now—and probably can't even once we get back—but remind me about it. Something to keep in mind, for the future."
"I will do so, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
It took many hours for the local healer to arrive, and in that time Teal'c devised a way to mark the ship so that any member of the SGC who found it would know that this was indeed the ship he and Daniel Jackson had escaped in. It was coded, though in such a way that Bra'tac would understand.
Teal'c did meditate for a while. Daniel Jackson promised to keep watch and alert him if anyone or anything should come. But they were both awake and aware by the time the healer and her escort arrived.
Kaditede was a short, plump woman with wiry gray hair in many tiny braids which fell down her back. She wore a thin gold headband that ran right along her hairline, and instead of the grimy dull undyed robes worn by Nensela and Tabiry, her dress had wide horizontal red and black stripes. A stocky man helped her climb through the shattered windscreen, a pack with supplies on his back. He bore a knife like Nensela and Tabiry had, although Kaditede was unarmed. Tabiry scrambled through after them, also carrying a pack.
Teal'c rose. Once the party was standing inside the tel'tak, he bowed deeply. Kaditede was obviously a person of some importance among her people.
"Teal'c, this is Kaditede," Tabiry said. "She is our chief's sister. Her assistant is her son Aspelta. Kaditede, this is Teal'c, a Jaffa."
Kaditede looked him up and down. "You don't look as impressive as the stories say," she said.
"Deeds carry greater weight than appearances," Teal'c said.
"True," she said. "Now. Is that my patient behind you?"
"I am," Daniel Jackson said. "My name is Daniel Jackson."
"Pleased to meet you," Kaditede said. "Good thing I brought a stretcher; you obviously won't be climbing down that mountainside under your own steam. I see a head wound and various bandages. Is there any greater injury than the head and leg, or should I start elsewhere?"
"I've got some cracked or broken ribs, and my leg is broken," Daniel Jackson said. "But I think the head and the leg are the worst of it."
Aspelta removed a cushion from his pack, and put it next to Daniel Jackson. He then assisted his mother in sitting down on it.
"All right," Kaditede said, once she was at her patient's level. "Let me give you shemshemet for the pain, and then we shall see if there is any tenderness in your gut that might betray a deeper injury there. Then we will see if the leg has been set correctly, and if any of your wounds require stitches."
While she worked, Teal'c sized up Aspelta. The other man was in good shape, but he did not move like one who was practiced in the arts of combat. He sat next to his mother and handed her items out of the bag as she required, cleaning and stitching the minor wounds while Kaditede cared for the greater ones. She felt Daniel Jackson's skull and said it was not broken, and then moved to splint his leg.
"You said you have water," Tabiry said. "May I fill my water-skin?"
"Of course," said Teal'c. He showed her the tap for the cistern, though he remained aware of Daniel Jackson and the healers as he did so.
"How much water is in there?" Tabiry asked.
Teal'c named the amount, and Tabiry whistled. "Wish we had a chariot capable of carrying that much water at a time," she said. "It would make the trip to the dry-season pastures so much shorter if we didn't have to work our way around from oasis to stream to spring and back again."
"Indeed," Teal'c said.
Eventually, Kaditede and Aspelta finished their work. Aspelta helped his mother to stand, and then set to work gathering their tools back into his bag.
"Now is the time to discuss payment for my services," Kaditede said. "And also the question of what your plans are. I understand this sky-chariot of yours is too broken to take you back where you came from?"
"It is," Teal'c said, "but our friends will come looking for us."
"How long will that take?" Kaditede asked.
"We're … not exactly sure," Daniel Jackson said. "It could be a while. We're not expecting them in the next few weeks. We were hoping to impose on your hospitality until then. We'd pull our own weight, of course."
"Yes," Aspelta said, eyeing Teal'c, "I believe you could."
"What will you do with this ship when your friends come?" Kaditede asked.
"What do you wish us to do?" Teal'c replied before Daniel Jackson could speak. Daniel Jackson could, at times, drive a very hard bargain; there was a reason he often represented the SGC at negotiations both on and off Earth. However, when he was in what O'Neill called 'make nice with the natives' mode he was prone to giving away more than he should. The shemshemet she had given him would not help.
"Will you take it with you?"
"Possibly," Teal'c said, although they almost certainly would not unless the local people requested it. The tel'tak was a standard model, and had not been very interesting before it crashed; now, it would be useful only for spare parts—if that.
"We would take some of the metal in trade for my services and your lodging with us until your friends come," Kaditede said.
"Oh, do you have your own smiths?" Daniel Jackson asked. "What metals do you work with?"
"Copper, tin, and bronze, mainly," Tabiry said. "My cousin is an apprentice smith. Gold, when he can get it, which isn't often."
Aspelta made a shushing noise at her, and Kaditede frowned at her. Teal'c was unsurprised; if they were restricted to copper, tin, and bronze for the most part, the metal in the ship would be most valuable. If they could figure out how to work it. But if they had nothing like it, it raised the value quite substantially.
"Well, our friend Sam might want to strip out some of the inner workings for spare parts, but the rest of it we won't need," Daniel Jackson said. "You're welcome to have it."
Teal'c glanced up at the ceiling. Yes. Daniel Jackson was in full 'make nice with the natives' mode. It would have been nice to reserve at least some of the ship for future trade or leverage, in case the local people were not generous. Aspelta gave him a commiserating glance.
"Wonderful!" Kaditede said with a smile. "You are welcome to our hospitality for as long as you like."
The light was fast fading, but it held long enough for Daniel to be carried out of the tel'tak and down the side of the mountain it had crashed in. He gritted his teeth as best he could; the marijuana in the drink she'd given him did its best, but it wasn't as good as what Janet could have given him, if she'd been there. And even that probably wouldn't have been up to making the jolting trip down the steep path bearable; he was strapped to a stretcher with Teal'c in front and Aspelta behind, and they did their best but he was jolted with every step.
And he was so hungry. He'd been, what, maybe two days without food? And the marijuana wasn't helping. It was nice to get confirmation that the plant shemshemet mentioned in ancient Egyptian medical texts was, in fact, cannabis. Though he'd had pot in college and grad school a few times, and again in 1968 with Michael and Jenny, and this stuff didn't seem to be as potent. Score one for modern plant breeding methods. On the other hand, on the rare occasions he'd gotten high in college, he'd been perfectly healthy. The pain was definitely cutting through the buzz. He gasped as a particularly bad jolt sent spikes of agony through his skull and down his leg.
"Sorry," said Aspelta. "Thought that rock was steady."
"It's okay," Daniel said. "How much further?"
"We're almost to the bottom," Aspelta said. "And then the camp is about an hour's walk from there—it should be a smoother ride for you when we're on more even ground. You're lucky you arrived when you did—we only camp here twice a year, once on the way to the dry season pastures, and once on the way back. If you'd been even a day earlier or later, we might not have seen you. Even if we had, we might have thought you were too far away to bother with checking out."
"And you're even luckier that I happened to be along this trip," Kaditede said from behind them. "I'm normally too busy to go out with the herds to the dry season pastures. But I have some fond memories of the herd life, and I got nostalgic this year, figured if I left it too much longer I might not be in any condition to go out and live in a grass hut for a few months."
"Yes, we were lucky," Daniel said. "Thank you for your hospitality." They'd have found a way to make it without the locals, and in some ways it would have been easier, but on the other hand, it would be much more pleasant to live for the next weeks or months in a functioning village, instead of wreckage. On a personal level, healing without painkillers was a nasty thought.
"You're welcome," Kaditede said. "Though given your luck, you should be thanking Juno, as well."
"We don't ...." Daniel said, before remembering what he and Teal'c had agreed earlier. "We are not worshippers of Juno."
"Well, I figured," Kaditede said, "what with Khnum's ram's-head stuck in the wall of your ship. But Khnum isn't so jealous he'd begrudge you thanks to Juno, as well, is he?"
"What is Khnum like?" Tabiry asked from the front where she was finding a good path for them.
"Harsh," said Teal'c forebodingly. It ended the conversation until they were at the bottom of the mountain, where a young man was lying on the ground waiting for them. He had two mastadges with him, desultorily munching on the vegetation.
"Don't suppose you've got any food?" Daniel asked.
Once they were at the bottom of the mountain, they stopped to rest and eat. There was bread, of course, and dried meat, and some fruit. These people ate well, Teal'c noted; they must be prosperous for their travelling fare to be so varied. The portions were, of course, sized for a human appetite and not for Jaffa, but Teal'c could last quite a while on short rations. Jaffa were bred to be hardy.
Looking back up the slope they had descended, he could not see the tel'tak. It was hidden by a shoulder of the mountain. The chance of bandits finding it, if any existed here, was low. Once they had all eaten and drank, Daniel Jackson's stretcher was attached between the two mastadges and they set off once more.
They travelled down a broad ravine filled with scrubby vegetation. A large herd had recently passed this way, or rather, several herds of different animals—cattle, sheep and goats, mastadges. Presumably their host's beasts on their way to the dry-season pastures. As they walked, their hosts carried on a desultory conversation. It was a mark of Daniel Jackson's injuries—and the shemshemet—that he made few contributions to the conversation. Teal'c listened, but did not participate; he knew little of animal husbandry, and less of the seasonal conditions on this world, but any of it could prove useful.
The camp was located where the ravine widened out, on the banks of a stream that was little more than a trickle now but showed signs of seasonal engorgement. There were only two tents up, though there were signs that five others had recently been taken down. A handful of mastadges grazed on what little vegetation there was. There was a fire between the two tents with a pot on it. An adolescent girl was tending the pot, while an adolescent of indeterminate gender fletched an arrow. A ranged weapon, the first he had seen. But was its purpose to defend against wild predators, or human ones?
Daniel Jackson was taken down from his stretcher, and placed by the fire for Kaditede to examine again. "Well, there's no fresh bleeding, that's a good sign," she said, searching his abdomen for tender spots.
They ate more, and Daniel Jackson slept; given his injuries, the travel would have been difficult for him, and it was little wonder he was exhausted. Humans were so fragile.
"What do you hunt with the arrows you make?" Teal'c asked the fletcher, when the opportunity presented itself. Their name was Aamanikhe.
"Hunt?" Aamanikhe asked. "What is that?"
Teal'c blinked. "When you track and kill a wild animal."
"What does wild mean?" Aamanikhe asked.
Were there truly no animals on this planet besides those that they had domesticated? "It means an animal that does not belong to anyone, that has never belonged to anyone. Usually, no animal of its kind belongs to anyone."
"Oh," Aamanikhe said. "The only animals here on Iskit are owned by people. Or they ran away, and then you're supposed to return them to the village they came from, although people won't if they think they can get away with it. And sometimes they breed before they are recaptured, and then there is such a fight about who the calf or kid belongs to."
"So why do people hunt and kill wild animals?" Tabiry asked. "Why not capture them and add them to their herds?"
"Not all animals can be herded," Teal'c said. "Some simply cannot. Other are too dangerous—they are predators, which kill not only other beasts but people, too. And even those animals which could be domesticated may not be profitable to do so. If you domesticate an animal, you must care for it. Much time and effort goes into feeding it and protecting it. But if you hunt a wild animal, your only effort is the hunt itself. Far easier."
"If you can find it to kill it," Aspelta said. "Herdbeasts that know us and trust us are difficult enough to find when they go astray."
"Also, you wouldn't get milk and wool from it," Tabiry said.
"Maybe they're like cattle which don't have wool," the cook said. Her name was Takahatamani.
"You could still get the milk," Tabiry said defensively.
Teal'c found comfort in the adolescent squabbling. He did not see Rya'c as often as he might wish, but their interactions reminded him of the way his son interacted with his peers. A mixture of childish certainty, a desire to be seen as wise, and a desire also to keep his friends from becoming too haughty in their own wisdom.
Also, if there were truly no animals beyond domestic ones on Iskit, it was good that they would be staying with the local people. Teal'c was a very good hunter, but even the best hunter failed when there was no game. And gathering plants was women's work, among the Jaffa. If he said such a thing to Major Carter, she would speak passionately about sexism and misogyny, and Daniel Jackson would give a whole lecture about gender as a social construct. His five years on SG-1, and a great deal of reflection on Major Carter and the Jaffa women that he knew, had shown him the merit of their words, but the fact remained: as a job reserved for women, Teal'c had never learned to do it. And so without hospitality, they would have had a choice between starvation and turning bandit.
"I suppose if you killed the animal with an arrow, you wouldn't have to get too close," Aamanikhe said.
"You'd have to get close enough to butcher it," Takahatamani said. "And you'd have the damage from the arrow. What if it tore the best part of the hide?"
"Yes, but if it was an animal that wanted to kill you, better to dispatch it from a distance even if it does ruin the pelt," Aamanikhe pointed out.
"If you do not hunt animals with your bow, what do you use them for?" Teal'c asked.
"Fighting off cattle thieves, mostly," said Aspelta. "In the wet season, when we're all working the fields and the herds and flocks are close to home, there isn't much raiding. In the dry season, when only the crafters have work to do and the animals are up on the dry pastures, then sometimes a village will send out a raiding party."
"I was eleven, the last time we got raided," Tabiry said. She made a face. "It was pretty scary, but we managed to drive them off. Well, the others did—I was too young to do much besides keep the goats from scattering. Now, though, I'm pretty good with a bow—and better with a sling!"
"Besides, it's not like there's much to do when you're up on dry-season pasture," Aamanikhe said. "Archery contests are about as exciting as it gets, barring real bandits showing up."
"You should be grateful they don't," Kaditede said.
Daniel Jackson would be sorry to have missed this discussion, but he was fast asleep.
The next morning, Kaditede declared that Daniel needed at least another day of rest before travelling to their village. So Teal'c, Aspelta, Aamanikhe, and Takahatamani climbed back up to the ship to dismantle what they could take back with them. (Tabiry set out at first light to catch up with the herds.)
Daniel, after another dose of shemshemet, lay under an awning and chatted with Kaditede about what techniques she knew and herbs she used. It was a very pleasant conversation, and he wished he had a way to record it, or take notes about it.
There were times his pain and discomfort made conversation difficult, and in those times he lay back and stared at the sky. The clouds were fluffy and high above, the sort that brought no rain. Beyond them, a moon rose—far greater than Earth's moon. It filled the sky. Kaditede called it Unati. Daniel wondered if it were a moon, or a sister planet … or if Iskit was the moon. Perhaps they would find out when they were rescued.
The day passed slowly but erratically. At times it seemed to stretch out forever; at others, Daniel was sure he had not slept, but he would blink and the moon was in a different place. Eventually it set.
That evening, Teal'c and the others returned, leading mastadges laden with bundled up bits of wreckage.
In the morning they set out for the town. It took them two days to get there.
Teal'c had seen many towns and villages and cities, on many planets. This one bore signs of the cheerful industry one sometimes got in places untouched by the Goa'uld. There was little fear or suspicion, here; people bustled about their business, secure in the stability of their lives. The quality of their clothes was very high, indeed. Chickens clucked and wandered through the streets, and the wind brought the distinctive smell of pigs. Truly, these were prosperous people.
The buildings were constructed of mud-brick and stone, with high conical thatched roofs which spoke to strong rains in other seasons. They were brightly painted with a variety of motifs ranging from geometrical to pictorial, with blue the dominant color. The fields around the town lay fallow, and the vegetation was dry and brittle.
In the center a large stone edifice marked with Juno's crown rose over the surrounding buildings. A temple. Teal'c eyed it darkly.
Their little convoy did not go far into the town. Instead, Daniel and Teal'c were escorted to a small hut on the outskirts. It was clean, and furnished with sleeping mats, stools, a table, and cooking pots. Beautiful fabrics in bright colors hung on the walls. An elderly man waited for them.
"So you are the Jaffa," he said, looking Teal'c up and down. "I am Senkamanisken, and I will be seeing that you have what you need. The place is ready for you, however long you stay with us. Do you know how to cook? My wife sent some food for today, at least."
"I am no master of the cookfire, but my skills are sufficient to feed myself and Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
"Good," Senkamanisken said.
They unloaded Daniel from the mastadges; he was conscious but obviously in more pain than he let on. Kaditede examined him, as Aspelta and the rest led the other mastadges away, laden with the spoils from the ship.
"His wounds are healing nicely," Kaditede said. "I'm still worried about the head—wish we could have had more time before the journey here, but it just wasn't more practical. He could use some cleaning up—I've tried to keep his wounds as clean as I could, but with the dust from the trail …"
"I can help you carry water from the well, Teal'c," Senkamanisken said. "In the rainy season, I'd get my daughter or grandsons, instead, but they're out with the herds, so it's you and me."
"Thank you," Teal'c said. He took two buckets, and they set off.
Senkamanisken stopped at a larger hut nearby to grab a yoke with buckets attached. "The hut we have for you is small, but it's in good repair, and you'll note that you're close to the well," he said.
"It should serve us quite well," Teal'c said.
"Given the gift of the sky-chariot, we want to make sure you are taken care of," Senkamanisken said. "Don't hesitate to ask for anything you need."
"As a Jaffa, I eat larger portions than humans do," Teal'c said.
Senkamanisken laughed. "Given the reports of how much metal is in that chariot, I think we can afford as much food as you can eat! Juno only knows what our smiths can make of it—and if nothing else, we can trade it. And if you would like a set of clothing, my niece is one of the best weavers in town. Your armor is very impressive," he hurried to assure Teal'c, "but I'm not sure it's very practical outside of battle."
"Something with more protection from the sun would be appreciated," Teal'c said. "And Daniel Jackson's clothing is more fit for rags than wearing."
"Yes, certainly," Senkamanisken said. "I will see to it."
It was wonderful to be still, in a relatively dark place, Daniel thought. That alone did wonders for his aching head. And his leg. It had stopped hurting unless you jostled it … but three days on a mastadge palanquin was three days of jostling. Kaditede assured him that he was on the mend, and would soon be up and around on crutches, but for now he was content to lie in the darkness of their hut and rest, with nothing more taxing to do than staring up at the elaborate bracing that held up the thatch.
Now that he was back at the town, Kaditede had turned his care over to Aspelta, who came over to see him and talk every morning. Senkamanisken brought food, and Teal'c cooked it, a varied diet that spoke to greater prosperity than just subsistence farming. On Abydos, he had eaten better, but on Abydos he had been Kasuf's son-in-law. There was bread, of course, and fava beans and chick peas and lentils, with mutton or pork or chicken. There was okra, too, and eggplant, and grape leaves, and lemons. For spicing, there was garlic and onions and cumin and turmeric and hot peppers and others Daniel didn't know the name of.
"You know," he told Teal'c as they ate lunch on their third day in the village, "I'm pretty sure, from the quantity of spices Senkamanisken has been bringing, that they eat their food a lot hotter than this." He used his bread to scoop up some thick onion-and-pork-and-lentil paste. The Somali on Earth had a similar dish called wat. Daniel would have to find out what the Iskitani called it.
"This is probably true, but I do not have the skill to use them properly," Teal'c said. "On campaigns, Jaffa are not given such luxuries."
"Would you have the spices at home?" Daniel asked. "We didn't get much time on Chulak, before we had to leave, and the Free Jaffa camps are pretty bare-bones."
Teal'c hesitated. "By the time I was First Prime, our food was richly seasoned, but I do not know the names of the spices, to say whether these are they, or not."
"Ah," Daniel said. "I suppose this place isn't much like Chulak."
"It is not, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "It is far more peaceful. But it is more similar than the SGC is. The children play games similar to those Rya'c played at that age, or myself. The old women and men sit in the market and around cookfires and tell stories."
"I know what you mean," Daniel said. "Community. Old and young, people who've known each other all their lives. A place for everyone and everyone in their place. Abydos was like that. Except, when I lived on Abydos, they were only just starting to explore what it meant to be free of Ra. Here, they've been effectively free of the Goa'uld for a few centuries, even if they don't think they're free."
"Juno's temple is at the heart of the town," Teal'c said darkly. "She is gone, but they enforce her will, and her tithe is still collected. Even now, some of the wreckage is being stored in the temple."
"Really?" Daniel asked. "I haven't even asked what she collected her tithe in. I mean, it can't be naquadah, like it was on Abydos; somebody else would have made sure to scoop them up after Juno died."
"I believe they make a fine cloth from fibers native to this planet," Teal'c said.
Daniel blinked. "Cloth is a perishable good—they can't just be stockpiling it to turn over when she returns, because by this time they must know that the older stuff would have turned brittle. And a Goa'uld might or might not be angry at a few years of missed tithes, if they weren't around to collect, but they'd definitely be mad if the tithe wasn't good enough quality." He'd have to ask the priest, once he was able to get up and around. It would be the first time he'd had the opportunity to study the ordinary Temple procedures on a Goa'uld world, and it would be very useful. Even a world as isolated as Iskit could tell him a lot about how they worked. Various archaeologists and historians working in the Ancient Near Eastern field had done some interesting work, these last few years, on the economic role that temples played in their community. It would be fascinating to see how it all compared.
Well, that would have to wait until he could be out in the sunlight without getting a headache.
As Daniel Jackson needed very little care, Teal'c was free to wander the streets of the town. He wore the garments they had given him most often; he was too large to truly blend in, and as always his tattoo marked him as different, but dressing like a native helped. The town was situated at the base of a mountain range, in a broad valley where a large river came down out of the mountains. They had crashed in the foothills, and Nensela and Tabiry who had found them were now up with the herds in mountain pastures. The valley was dull and hot now, the river slow and low, but the fields and the irrigation system spoke of a wet season that had not yet come. There were three roads out of town, besides the track up into the mountains that they had come down. One, the largest, followed the river out of the cultivated area and into a desert wilderness, with rocky ground, hard soil, and little vegetation. The other two led out from town to either side, running along the foothills of the mountains as far as Teal'c could see.
It was difficult to tell, given that most of the youths and younger adults were off with the herds, but he believed that the total population of the town was somewhere between fifteen hundred and two thousand. There were no defensive fortifications, nor signs that there ever had been; nor could Teal'c see any signs of battles long past. If any Goa'uld had sent their Jaffa to Iskit to try to wrest it from Juno, they had not made it this far. It was, despite its bustle, one of the most peaceful places Teal'c had ever seen. There was no place for him here.
For more reasons than one. Juno's temple dominated the town; it was by far the largest building, and on the highest point. This was to be expected, for no Goa'uld would ever settle for anything less. But it was too small and plain to be the main temple on this planet; one of the other towns, the ones the roads led to, must be her capital. But small as it was, this temple was a hub of activity, with people going and coming in greater numbers than Teal'c would have expected. Most of them were empty-handed, bearing no offering or sacrifice. Teal'c watched it, silently, for some time before moving on. Given a choice, he would mount the steps now, and denounce all false gods, Juno included.
But it would not be prudent while they were dependent on local hospitality. He turned and headed back toward their hut. He should exercise; his prim'ta kept his muscles in peak condition, but reflexes were a matter of skill and practice.
By the time Daniel was able to get up and around, he was more than ready for it and sick of the sight of the thatched roof of the hut. Not that he could get far, on his crutches—he'd lost muscle, in the week and a half since the crash, doing nothing besides lying there—but even just sitting on a chair outside the front door gave him a whole new view and, even more importantly, people besides Teal'c and Aspelta to talk to.
And talk they did. Nobody had ever really figured out what it was the Stargates did, when you went through a pair of gates with a DHD at each end, that left you able to understand at least some of the language spoken on either side. (More of it, if you were the same species and it was a common language, spoken by people on many different worlds; less if neither of those were true.) You heard other people speaking (mostly) the language you were most familiar with.
Jack and General Hammond, once they had been assured by the doctors that it was harmless, had been thrilled. It made everything so much easier for the SGC to need fewer translators.
Daniel mostly found it annoying. It was a lot harder to learn a new language when you had to struggle to hear what they were actually saying, and not a translation; and you had to learn someone's language to actually talk to them about anything important because nuances were always lost (or added) in translation.
Still, it was possible. And given how slim a job the gate-translator (whatever it was) was giving, him, it was very necessary. He sat outside and talked to anyone who passed by—including a pack of small children who giggled at how funny he sounded, trying to copy them.
Kaditede arrived shortly after lunch, scowling, to examine him.
"I'm feeling fine," Daniel protested.
"I've heard from no fewer than five different people that your speech is muddled," she said. "It shouldn't be, this long after your injury, unless you've done something to make it worse. Or it was worse than it seemed."
"Oh!" Daniel said. "No. I'm just trying to learn your language, that's all."
"But you're speaking it just fine, now," Kaditede said. "You're not particularly eloquent, but you do speak it."
"When you travel through the Ring of the Gods, it does something to your brain," Daniel said. "It gives you the ability to understand some languages without really speaking them. It's fairly … basic. If I'm going to be staying here for a while, I'd like to be able to communicate better than that."
"Ah," Kaditede said. "I've never learned another language. How do you do it?"
"There are a lot of different methods," Daniel said. "One is to just start memorizing words, and listening to people who speak the language until you figure out how they go together. That's what I'm trying to do now. It helps if you know similar languages, or at least the basic structures that languages tend to have."
"And do you?"
"I'm a linguist," Daniel said. "So I know a lot of languages, and a lot about how languages fit together. But the closest language that I know to yours is Nobiin, and I'm afraid I don’t know it very well."
"Nobiin," Kaditede said. "Well. I know our ancestors were from a place called Nubian. But our language is called Meroah. That is, the language we speak every day; in the temple we speak Juno's language."
"Really?" Daniel said. "Meroë was a place on Earth, my planet, not far from the place your ancestors were taken from. We have some written examples of the Meroitic language, but it hasn't been spoken in about 1500 years. There's been a theory that it was closely related to Nobiin, but not enough evidence to prove it one way or another."
"You are Tau'ri?" Kaditede asked. "But Teal'c isn't? Are all Tau'ri so pale as you? What happened to make you so pale? I hope you don't find it rude, but I've been wondering what caused it since I first saw you. It doesn't look like some sort of a disfiguring accident."
Daniel laughed. "No, I was born this way. Earth—the planet of the Tau'ri—has a lot of different skin colors. About twenty-five out of every hundred people on Earth have skin like mine. About twenty out of every hundred people on Earth has skin like yours."
"Ah," Kaditede said, shaking her head. "Strange. When I was a little girl, my sister and I would act out the stories of our people, how Juno brought us here and gave us good land and prosperity, and so on, and about where we came from. And all the stories about the things Juno did while she was elsewhere. It never occurred to me that the people I was playing at being might look as strange as you do—no offense."
"None taken," Daniel said. "If you have the time, would you be willing to tell me those stories?" He wished he had something to take notes in. Nobiin and (presumably) Meroah were of the Nilo-Saharic language family, which was by far the least understood of the African language families. And quite possibly not one language family, but rather several—there was a lot of debate about that, between linguists, whether it was truly one wildly diverse language family, or merely a grab-bag of languages that didn't fit anywhere else. The tight geographic clustering made Daniel suspect they were all related, but there were convincing arguments against it. If he hadn't imprinted on Egypt so early via his parents—and hadn't stumbled on the archaeological discrepancies left by the Goa'uld—he might have turned his focus to the Nilo-Saharan languages, instead. This was a stunning opportunity.
"Sure," said Kaditede.
Teal'c was, of course, aware of his audience, and the large share of it that was female. As a young man, he would have taken the opportunity to preen, perhaps stripped to the waist so they could see his muscles. But he had little interest in transient dalliances, and certainly not with a woman who worshipped false gods. And so he continued his exercises, paying them no mind.
Drey'auc had watched him, thus, when they were younger. But it had not been his posturing which had won her regard, but rather Bra'tac's praise of his wits.
"You spend a lot of time doing that," Senkamanisken said as he finished. "Hours each day. What is it?"
"They are combat exercises, designed to train the body and mind to fight," Teal'c said. "So that in battle, my hands and feet will always know what to do, even without thinking. They are better when done with a partner, but even practice alone can be very effective." It had been years since he had regularly done them in armor, instead of SGC fatigues, but the robes they had given him were too loose to properly fight in.
"And do you need to do it so often?"
Teal'c tilted his head. "Perhaps not—but I have little else productive with which to fill my days."
"Hmm," the older-looking man said. He was clearly an elder, though Teal'c knew enough of humans now to guess he was possibly thirty years Teal'c's junior. As always, the short-lived nature of humans disquieted him, but he ignored it.
"If the young people weren't up in the dry-season pastures, I'd ask you if you wanted to fill your time by teaching them," Senkamanisken said. "Then again, if they were here, it'd be the wet season and they'd be busy in the fields."
"If you have town guards, I would be pleased to instruct them," Teal'c said.
"Guards? Why would we need guards?" Senkamanisken asked, frowning. "The herds aren't here."
"Are the herds then the only things in danger from attackers?" Teal'c asked.
"Of course," Senkamanisken said. "What else would they steal? It's not like you can pick up a house and carry it off with you!"
"In many places in the galaxy, there are people who would come not to steal, but to conquer," Teal'c said. At Senkamanisken's blank look, he explained. "To take over. To impose their will on you. To control the village and force you to pay them tribute."
"Well, I wouldn't know about that," Senkamanisken said. "Maybe Apep doesn't protect his people from that, but Juno does."
"When he was alive, Apophis sent his Jaffa out to conquer in his name, defeating the armies of other Goa'uld and invading their planets," Teal'c said. "Juno did likewise."
"Oh," Senkamanisken said, looking faintly disturbed. "Well, we never have that here."
"You are most fortunate," Teal'c said.
"Sounds like it," Senkamanisken said. He shook his head. "In any case, Paiftauaabaste the smith would like to talk with you, see if you've got some insights into how to deal with the metal from your sky-chariot."
"I know very little of forging metals," Teal'c said, "but I will be what help I can."
In the evenings, Daniel and Teal’c shared their day’s activities. The week he’d spent here lying in the dimness of the hut nursing his head, Teal’c had told him much of the town and its people. He’d picked up on a lot of interesting and probably important details.
Daniel knew he shouldn’t be surprised; Teal’c didn’t have an academic education, but he was a very smart man. And one who’d lived for a century and risen to the very pinnacle of a screwed up and supremely dangerous empire. That didn’t happen if you were stupid or unobservant. But Teal’c was so quiet, and while he listened courteously to Daniel’s knowledge (unlike Jack), he was not one who valued knowledge for its own sake. For Teal’c to be truly interested, there had to be a practical edge somewhere.
"I believe I know why this planet has no Stargate," Teal'c told him over dinner.
"Really?" Daniel asked. "Why's that?"
"Juno was known to outfit herself in a particular fabric which was hers and hers alone," Teal'c said. "Apophis only mentioned her one time in my hearing, but when he did, it was with regret that she had taken all knowledge of the fabric—where it was from, what it was made out of, and how it was woven—with her to her death."
"No one knew where it came from?" Daniel asked.
"They did not," Teal'c said. "The location of the planet was a carefully guarded secret. Juno's domains were small and poor, for a system lord, it was one of the few riches she truly had. She would give gifts of that fabric as treaty items. Apophis was complaining that the last of it had worn out."
"And here we are, on a hidden planet of Juno's, where they have a lot of weavers," Daniel said.
"And where the guild house of the weavers is attached to Juno's temple," Teal'c said.
"Oh?" Daniel asked. Part of the town was composed of free-standing buildings such as their hut, but the center of town was filled with taller buildings, mostly built together like rowhouses, with vaulted or domed roofs. "Is it truly attached, or just the building next to it?"
"There is an interior connection," Teal'c said. "I have seen people go in the door of the Temple, and leave from the guild hall."
"Wow, that's different," Daniel said. Goa'uld generally didn't like other buildings around their temples, and they certainly didn't connect them.
"This place does not build with defense in mind," Teal'c said. "The only conflict between the towns and villages is the occasional raid on others' herds. There is no war, as such."
"And since nobody knows they're here, they don't have to fear anyone from offworld, either," Daniel said. He thought about it for a while. "I keep wondering where the catch is," he admitted. "How many times have we gone somewhere that looked idyllic on the surface, but had something really wrong underneath it?"
Teal'c stared at him. "Daniel Jackson, they worship false gods," he said. "Obscurity is their only defense. If a goa'uld stumbled upon them tomorrow, they would welcome him with open arms, not realizing their mistake until it was far, far too late."
Daniel sighed. "Yeah." They weren't like Abydos, with rebellion burning just under the surface, waiting for a spark, an opening, to burst out and sweep them away. They were quite content with their goddess, from what he had seen.
After a while, conversation eventually turned to Daniel's linguistic efforts.
"It would be easier if I knew more tonal languages," Daniel said. "Particularly ones with register tone systems, not contour tone ones." At Teal'c's blank look, he explained. "A majority of Human languages use the pitch of your voice or the shape of the pitch. But I mostly know Indo-European languages, like English, which rarely have tonality, and the non-tonal branches of Afroasiatic, such as Egyptian. I'm fluent in Manadarin, which is tonal, but it's a completely different language family and a completely different tonal system. In Mandarin, the tone is all about the shape of the pitch as you say the word. That's called a contour system. Here, the tone is about a word's pitch relative to the words around it, whether it's higher or lower or the same. I do know a handful of languages like that, but not many, and none of them well."
Daniel took himself another helping of stew and sighed. "If it weren't for the Goa'uld, this is a place I'd like to come back and study more." Teal'c said nothing. Daniel hadn't expected him to; Teal'c was too pragmatic to have much use for wishful thinking.
"It is kind of Kaditede to spend so much time assisting you in your studies," Teal'c said.
"Yeah," Daniel said with a sigh. He set his plate down and stared up at the huge moon hanging over their heads. "You know, Sha'uri taught me Abydonian?" he said eventually.
Teal'c inclined his head. "I did." His voice had that careful tone it got when Sha'uri was discussed, even now, almost two years after her death. When she'd first died—after Teal'c had first killed her—Daniel had been grateful for it. But now, he sometimes wanted to talk about her, and his friends all got that same careful tone. If they'd known her, if they had shared memories of her they could talk about, it would probably be different.
"This is nothing like that," Daniel said. "Abydonian was a daughter language of Ancient Egyptian, which I already knew, and not that far removed from it. A vowel shift, some new vocabulary, a few changes to the grammatical structure—" several of which he'd found through gaffes that had sent Sha'uri into gales of laughter once she'd relaxed enough to let herself do so "—I got the basics down in a night, and while I still needed a lot of practice, it was all familiar. This … I'm starting almost from scratch. It's going to take a lot of time."
Kaditede was nothing like Sha'uri either; older, rounder, pleasant enough, but only concerned in him as a patient and a friend. She had a little curiosity about other worlds, and she liked to hear stories about what had happened to Meroë on Earth, but no desire to see for herself. Where Sha'uri had had a burning desire to change the world, to right the wrongs that Ra had forced on her world and her people, Kaditede was serenely content with a world and a life that had given her everything she desired and more.
But she did laugh at him, sometimes, when he got something humorously wrong, just like Sha'uri had done.
"No, no, still not working," Paiftauaabaste said. "Not hot enough." At his words, Teal'c and the apprentices extracted the hunks of metal from the ship, which, true to the smith's words, were barely showing signs of having been in a forge.
"Still, we'll see if it's at least easier to bend, like this," Paiftauaabaste mused. Teal'c watched him work as the apprentices went back to their ordinary work.
It was not a particularly hot day, for the season, but it could have been as cold as any winter's day on Chulak, and the forge would still have overpowered them with the heat it put out. Teal'c had seen forges and refineries as the First Prime of Apophis, both those of his own property Apophis occasionally toured and those he sent Teal'c out to capture. Daniel Jackson, although not a technological historian as he was quick to point out, knew some things about the development of metalworking equipment and techniques. Between them, they had managed to give Paiftauaabaste ideas about building a hotter furnace that might be sufficient to work the pieces of the ship.
"Maybe we should get a mastadge, give Daniel a ride over here so he could see it in person," Senkamanisken said. The smithy was on the other side of town from their hut, and it was too far to go on crutches. "See if he has any suggestions once he's seen it in person."
"Not a bad idea," Paiftauaabaste said. "If we can melt and reforge it, we'll be able to do so much more with this metal. It's great stuff! I haven't had a puzzle like this to work with since attaining my mastery of my craft."
"Puzzle or not, you've put in a lot of work," Senkamanisken said, fanning himself. "Be nice to see it repaid with actually figuring out what to do with that stuff." He was seated at the edge of the smithy, under the roof's shade but as far from the forge itself as possible, on the south side to catch the breeze.
"We'll get it," Paiftauaabaste said. "And even if we don't, I can use this new furnace in other ways. Daniel assures me it should melt magnetite! That will be something to play around with. I've always wondered what you could do with it besides stick it in a bowl of water and use it as a compass."
"We don't need compasses, much," Senkamanisken said.
"I'm sure when our ancestors first began working copper, they were doing it mostly because it looked pretty," Paiftauaabaste said. "And look at what all we do with it today! No, we'll find uses for it." He turned to his apprentices. "Be grateful for this opportunity! You are in an age of wonders, and when it is time for you to open your own smithies, you will know more than anyone else!"
One of the apprentices laughed, another spoke his thanks to his master and Teal'c for the opportunity, and the third rolled his eyes as Teal'c had done behind Master Bra'tac's back on occasion during his own apprenticeship.
Paiftauaabaste was a good-natured man, with a sharp wit he used more to raise spirits than tear them down. He was large, one of the few humans Teal'c had met who were near to his own mass, and long years hammering metals into submission had left his arms as full of muscle as Teal'c's own. His strength was less, as human muscles always were, and he had neither the training nor the reflexes for combat. But their bodies looked, from the outside, very much alike.
It did make Teal'c wonder, watching him work away with joy at a new challenge, what his own life might have been if there were no Goa'uld. No false gods demanding loyalty and blood for their own petty aggrandizement. No lies to be told, no hopeless unending battles to be fought.
Would he have taken up a trade such as this? Become skilled at building rather than destroying? Teal'c could not imagine it.
"I don’t want to take up too much of your time," Daniel said. Kaditede came often to tell him stories. By this point, he’d gotten much better on the crutches and regained his strength. Actually, he'd probably put on muscle in his arms, from the crutches. He was perfectly capable of finding someone else to talk to, if need be. And his Meroah was much better. "You must have other things to do."
Kaditede shrugged. "I gave my patients to other healers for the season, intending to be away at the dry-season pastures. But by the time I got you back and properly looked after here, it would have been too arduous a trek to catch up with them. Perhaps I'll try again next year."
This led to a fascinating discussion of the practices the Iskitani used to keep their flocks and herds. Kaditede knew them well, because like all Iskitani, she had spent a third of the year off with the flocks during the dry season when she was younger, before her apprenticeship.
Daniel responded with what little he knew of herding techniques on Abydos. It wasn't much, and not very applicable given the difference in climate, but she was interested nonetheless.
"You seem to have done a great deal of travelling, Daniel," she observed. "Is that common, on other worlds?"
Daniel shrugged. "It depends on the world, and what your trade is," Daniel said. "And whether or not a Goa'uld rules your planet. And which one. Jaffa travel often, because their Goa'uld masters will send them out to raid or capture another Goa'uld's planet. So they go a lot of places, but don't get to see much of them, you know? Goa'uld-ruled worlds are often tightly controlled. They see their people as cattle to be controlled—they don't want any chance of them straying. So while you can trade pretty freely on your own world, you don't get to leave it." Unless you got taken to be a host. Like Sha'uri did. Apophis' trip to Chulak's dungeon was the only other world she'd seen, while in control of her own body.
Kaditede was watching him carefully. Her brother was the town's lord, and he wondered, not for the first time, how much of what they talked of she was reporting back to him. "Then you do not worship any Goa'uld?"
"No," Daniel said. "Ra buried the gate on Earth and left thousands of years ago. We found it, a while back, and started exploring." And killed Ra, and many other Goa'uld. But while he was willing to test the boundaries, he wasn't willing to test them that far. Not while they had no way off the planet, and no way of surviving outside of Iskitani settlements.
"And Ra never came back?" Kaditede asked.
"No, he didn't." Juno wouldn't, either, he wanted to tell her.
"Juno will," Kaditede said. "She never spends much time here, but she always comes back. Where else could she get the fine Ouwinshiber fabric to adorn her body and her temples?"
"Nowhere else," Daniel admitted. "But that Ouwinshiber is what makes you valuable. The rest of what you have here is fairly standard. You're prosperous, but cattle and sheep and goats and wheat and date palms and citrus can be found on hundreds of worlds. Ouwinshiber is only from here. Other Goa'uld would want to capture you and force you to make it for them, if they knew where you were."
"Then we should be grateful that Juno hides us, and comes infrequently," Kaditede said.
"Yes," Daniel said. Abydos would be safe—Sha'uri would still be alive—if Abydos had stayed hidden. And Iskit had fewer protections.
"Do you think Juno would like earrings made out of sky-chariot?" Paiftauaabaste asked idly as they shut down the forge for the day.
"I do not believe so," Teal'c said. "It is not shiny enough." He paused, gauging his words. "Also, some Goa'uld wish for their people to stay … simple. So that they are easier to control. They do not approve of their people learning new things." After all, how were they to awe superstitious slaves if the slaves knew their masters' secrets?
Paiftauaabaste scoffed. "Apophis may be like that—or Khnum—but Juno loves us, and wants us to prosper. And how can we prosper if we don't learn and grow? All living things grow as Juno ordains it."
"Besides, Juno likes pretty things and rich things," Senkamanisken said. "He's right that that stuff isn't shiny enough for her, but if you're a better smith, you can make her more things. She's as practical as any mother, and wouldn't resent things that help you serve her better."
In Teal'c's extensive experience with Goa'uld, this was not the case, and by all accounts Juno had been an ordinary minor lordling. But he could not say more without coming to open conflict with their hosts, which he did not want. On his own, he could stay hidden in the hills, raiding flocks for food and eluding the humans until a rescue came. But Daniel Jackson could not possibly do so until his leg healed—assuming it healed correctly, here where there were neither x-rays nor surgery to ensure it—and so he held his tongue.
"How is your leg?" Teal'c asked.
"Pretty good," Daniel said. "I'm lucky it was fairly minor, as broken legs go—Kaditede said I could start putting some weight on it, switching to one crutch or even just a cane fairly soon. I don't know if I should. It's not like she's got an x-ray to see how it's healing from the inside."
"No," Teal'c said, "but she has much experience in healing humans without such equipment."
"Yeah, but do you know how often a broken leg in a pre-modern-medicine culture meant being a cripple for the rest of your life?" Daniel asked. "I do. A lot. Even minor breaks can heal funny. There's a good chance I'm going to need surgery, when we get back to Earth. And then I can recuperate again." He sighed.
"Can you not feel whether it is right?" Teal'c asked.
"No," Daniel said. "I've never had a broken leg before, so I don't know what it's supposed to feel like. I mean, it looks fine from the outside, but at this point I don't think there's a way to tell without some kind of scan. Which we don't have. And even if they did, I wouldn't fancy surgery to fix it without antibiotics standing by, just in case." He sighed again. "Two convalescences from the same injury. Oh, well, at least it'll give me a lot of time to fully write up my notes. Kaditede got me some paper and ink and pens, but it's expensive stuff—I have to use it sparingly."
He thought longingly of publication. There were scholars who would give their leg for this, an in-depth study of a Nilo-Saharic language descended from Ancient Nubian with minimal outside influences. It had the potential to fill in a lot of gaps. And, like everything else Daniel discovered, it couldn't be shared with anyone outside the Stargate Program. Daniel had faith that someday the SGC would go public, and he kept writing up articles in what little spare time he had so that he would be ready when that day came. There was never enough time in the week to keep up with what he learned, not and prepare for new missions, too. But much as he would put the time off his feet to good use, it would mean his team going out without him. And he hated that. They all did, when illness or injury kept them behind.
"Doctor Frasier will take good care of you," Teal'c said.
"Oh, I know," Daniel said. "Well, no use complaining about it now. How are things going at the smithy?"
Teal'c cocked his head. "Paiftauaabaste seems pleased. He has not yet been able to truly work the metal from the tel'tak, but he believes he is getting closer to it." He paused. "I told him that Goa'uld are not often pleased that their worshippers have learned new things. He did not believe Juno would be one such. Nor did Senkamanisken."
Daniel nodded. "Not surprising. It's not like Juno's been around lately for them to see how capricious and harsh all Goa'uld are, and even when she was, I doubt she ever came to this town in particular—she probably just stayed at the main temple, near the mountain where she parked her Ha'tak." He stretched out his leg. It didn't hurt any more, but it really itched, underneath the cast where he couldn't get at it. "I've talked with Kaditede, about how jealous and dictatorial Goa'uld can be. She doesn't believe Juno would be like that either." He shrugged. "At least the seed has been planted, I guess? Better than nothing."
"Only by a very little margin," Teal'c said darkly.
"I also told her Ra left Earth thousands of years ago, and so I don't worship any Goa'uld," Daniel said. "I don't know. Maybe it will give them ideas."
"Not if we only speak with those who are content with Juno's rule," Teal'c said. "You have no doubt noted that Kaditede and Senkamanisken, for all their helpfulness, have never allowed us much time alone to speak with other people in the town?"
"I … hadn't put it together like that, but you're right," Daniel said. "I mean, I don't go out much, and Kaditede comes here so I don't have to. You go out, so you'd notice more. And Kaditede is part of the town's ruling family."
"Senkamanisken is her cousin," Teal'c said. "And if we were given a place to stay closer to the center of town, it would be more convenient for her care of you. It would also be easier for you to speak with others if we were in a room in the lord's house or one of the houses in the center of town. It would also be a more efficient way to feed us, simply adding two for dinner, instead of delivering food to us which we must cook ourselves. Here, we are close to a well, but more isolated from people."
"I hadn't noticed all of that," Daniel said. After all his time with the SGC, he should be better at spotting that sort of thing. Guess Kaditede and her brother the lord trusted them less than he'd thought.
"These peoples' lives may be simple and relatively untroubled," Teal'c said. "But they are neither naïve nor stupid."
"Hospitality to strangers, but don't give them the keys to the kingdom," Daniel said. "So there's probably a limit to how much we can safely say, even now."
"Indeed," Teal'c said, frowning.
"I see what you mean," Paiftauaabaste said, examining the load of parts and scrap metal which had been scavenged from the wreckage. Teal'c had advised them, but declined to join the expedition, preferring to stay closer to Daniel Jackson. "It looks gold, but it isn't even gold-plated—some sort of paint? Wish I knew how they did it. We don't have much gold here, and most of what we do gets put into our tithe to Juno. Only the very wealthiest can afford to adorn themselves with the same metal as the goddess. Which may be theologically sound, but if I had a way to make things that looked gold, but aren't, I could make a fortune."
"Does even Juno try to make herself look wealthier than she is?" one of the apprentices asked.
Paiftauaabaste flicked his ear. "I should send you to the temple, to make apologies for that," he said. "Juno's the greatest goddess there is, because she is the great mother. Other gods, like Khnum, may do that, but Juno wouldn't have to."
"Besides, it's a small chariot, fit for a god's servants, but probably not a god themselves," Senkamanisken said. "When Juno herself came, it was in a ship as big as a mountain. I've seen the pyramid she used to land on. But Teal'c's the expert on sky-chariots."
Teal'c paused, considering how to answer. "Very few goa'uld would ever ride in a tel'tak such as the one we travelled in," he said. "They prefer ha'taks, which are much larger and grander."
"Do they have real gold walls?" the apprentice asked.
"I wouldn't think so," Paiftauaabaste said. "Gold isn't very strong, not like this stuff." He rapped his knuckles on a piece of scrap metal. "Gold sheets covering this stuff, I'd imagine."
"You are correct," Teal'c said.
"It must look glorious," Paiftauaabaste said. "Doesn't it?" he said, glancing at Teal'c when he made no response.
"It does," Teal'c said finally. A hollow glory, full of stolen wealth and lives, but Paiftauaabaste would believe it only their due.
Daniel had never really appreciated walking, until he was stuck on crutches. Kaditede had initially said he might be able to start putting weight back on the leg at a month and a half, but after examining him again and watching him try to walk, she had changed her mind and said it would be another two weeks, at least.
Kaditede urged him to stay near the hut, but he'd gotten sick of its walls, beautiful as its tapestries were, and there were only so many people whose business took them to the outskirts of town, away from any of the roads. And his Meroah had gotten good enough he wanted to practice on more people than Kaditede. And hopefully get more perspectives than hers.
So here he was, swinging himself along on his crutches, towards the center of town where the Temple was. He'd gone to the market, a few times, and somehow he always ended up sitting by one of Kaditede's many kin. Today he was going to try something different. He was going to the Temple.
Being the tallest building, on the highest part of the town, it was not hard to find. Unlike the brick buildings around it, it was made of stone, although it shared the same arched roof that was common here. The smell of incense and grilled meat wafted out onto the street through the massive open doors.
Although people were going about their business around the temple, none were entering. Daniel would have preferred to go in at a busy time, to observe the Iskitani rituals without interfering or sticking out. But he was tired from the journey and he certainly wasn't going to turn back without seeing anything. So, after a few minutes observation, he went in.
It was dim and cool inside, despite the heat. The main hall was over two stories high, with windows along the top to let in light and what breeze there was. At the other end was a statue of Juno, with an altar in front of it, and a fire pit for roasting the sacrificed animals. There were many lamps, but only one of them—the most elaborate, standing just below the statue, was lit. The walls were covered with elaborate tapestries both figurative and geometric. The outer wall was lined with benches and doors, presumably to the parts of the building where the priests lived and their daily work was done.
Daniel wanted to explore, but he needed to rest, first. He sat down on the nearest bench and contemplated the tapestries, wishing he had his camera with him to document them. They were really fine work, he'd have to get someone to explain the symbolism and the stories they told.
A young woman in a fine dress bustled in from a side door. "Oh!" she said, seeing him there. "You must be the traveler. If you have come to pray, you needn't be shy—all are welcome, even those who are not Juno's children."
"Thank you for the invitation," Daniel said. "My name is Daniel, and I was just admiring the tapestries."
"And I am Neuesi, one of the junior priestesses here," she said, bowing to him. "Enjoy!" She continued on with her errands.
It wasn't long, however, before she was back, offering a guided tour of the tapestries, which he gladly took her up on. She wanted to practice her Goa'uld with him, and although he would rather have practiced his Meroah, he considered it a fair trade for learning more.
Most of the stories were about Juno, of course, with a few other Goa'uld sprinkled in here and there. Daniel knew enough about Goa'uld history and the current state of affairs in the galaxy to see just how much the stories had been distorted to favor Juno, making her appear far more important than she actually was. He was also interested to see that some of the stories were highly reminiscent of the Egyptian goddess Satet. Long after the Goa'uld were gone, when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, they had equated Juno and Satet. So had there been a pre-existing tradition from the days of the Goa'uld that the Greeks had picked up on? It would be fascinating to find out. They hadn't yet come across a Goa'uld named Satet; Satet and Juno might have been the same snake all along.
Others came and went as Neuesi and Daniel talked, but only one came to stay. An elderly woman in finer robes than Neuesi and an amulet with Juno's symbol watched and listened with sharp eyes, though she pretended to tend the altar.
When Neuesi had given him all the stories (and again he cursed his lack of recording devices because there was no way he could transcribe it all later), they sat back down so he could rest and she explained how the Temple worked. Besides a place of worship, it functioned as something similar to a central bank. Not as a place to deposit your valuables, but if you needed a loan, the Temple (with its vast store of offerings and tithes) was the place to go. That was actually Neuesi's main job, running the loan program. It was interesting, because Ancient Near Eastern temples on Earth, post-Goa'uld, had served such functions, but he'd never seen it on a Goa'uld world. Was this a case of two groups separately getting the same idea, or was it a more ancient practice that had fallen into disuse? No way to tell without going deep into Goa'uld records (if they kept such things), and they couldn't do that until the Goa'uld were gone.
Of all the reasons he had to hate the Goa'uld, the way they got in the way of his research wasn't in the top five. But it was probably in the top ten, and anyway, he'd decided it was healthier to look forward to a day without the Goa'uld, distant as that possibility seemed, than it was to dwell on his grief for Sha'uri. Difficult as that could be.
Mindful of the sharp-eyed priestess by the altar, Daniel smiled courteously at his host who had dedicated her life to serving a snake, and excused himself to go back to the hut.
"I'm going to the festival next week," Daniel Jackson said as they ate.
Teal'c looked over at his teammate. He had been searching for a way to broach a difficult subject. Perhaps later, although he had already wasted many days. "As am I, Daniel Jackson."
"Not just the party bit," Daniel Jackson said. "The ceremony, too. Kaditede asked; it will make her happy if at least one of us shows up."
"You are going to worship a Goa'uld?" Teal'c said, horror rising within him. That was something he had never expected of his friend and teammate.
"No!" Daniel Jackson said, looking hurt. "Not even for show. I'm going to be standing in the back and observing. It will be interesting from a cultural perspective, because there really isn't an equivalent festival in the related cultures back home, or at least not one that I'm aware of. Cultures with cold, dark winters pretty much always have mid-winter festivals, and cultures with a dry season and a rainy season tend to have festivals at the season change mark, but a festival to celebrate the midpoint of the dry season? That's rarer. It would be a shame to be here for it and not document it."
"You have spent a great deal of time documenting their worship of false gods," Teal'c observed. His prim'ta roiled within him, sensing his disquiet. He had seen it, and been disquieted by it, but never had he imagined this.
"It's a major part of their culture," Daniel Jackson protested. "I can't just ignore it!"
"An evil part," Teal'c said. "Which has brought much pain and suffering to them and to countless others."
"You think I don't know that, Teal'c?" Daniel Jackson said. "I may not have known the Goa'uld as long as you have, but I've seen their evil, too. I know what they did to Sha'uri, to countless others like her over the millennia. I know their love for torture and violence, their senseless bloodshed. I am not going soft on the Goa'uld, or whatever it is you think I'm doing."
"Soft?" Teal'c said. "You have always been soft, in many ways, but it has never stopped you from doing what must be done. This is not soft. This is forgetting what that temple means."
Daniel Jackson squinted at him. "No! No, never that. But Teal'c, the Goa'uld aren't here. In that temple, they worship a false god who's been dead for two centuries and is never coming back, and as long as they stay hidden they will never have to suffer the Goa'uld cruelties. If I could tell them the truth, I would … but I can't, because we need their goodwill to live until we get rescued. I can't tell them the truth, and there's nothing here to fight. The only thing I can do is bear witness to who they are, and maybe put together a few pieces that might help fill in some gaps in the historical record back home."
"Is that so important you will sit and hear Juno's glory preached and do nothing?" Teal'c asked. He did not know what this festival would be like, but he had sat through enough celebrations of Apophis' 'goodness' to imagine it.
"When there's nothing else I can do, and nothing Juno can do to me or anyone else, because she's dead?" Daniel Jackson said. "Yes." He jabbed his spoon into the stew.
Teal'c brought his temper firmly under control. It was true that he could not say what he thought or felt to anyone on Iskit, and it was true that he had rarely felt this helpless in all the decades of his life. But the fact that he could speak his mind to Daniel Jackson was no reason to take his frustrations out on his friend.
They finished their meal in silence. As usual, Daniel Jackson finished well before Teal'c did, and cleaned up the dishes and cookware while Teal'c ate.
They were sitting outside their hut under the doorway awning, to catch whatever breath of wind might come their way. Unati hung large overhead, glowing red in the light from the setting sun. A few stars hung overhead, glowing faintly. Even with the coming of full night, there would not be many to see, until Unati set; the moon was beautiful and dramatic, but its light obscured the weaker stars. Not for the first time, Teal'c reflected that if their teammates were with them, O'Neill would complain about Unati 'hogging the sky,' while Major Carter would have found a way to study the heavens above even without her usual equipment.
Teal'c knew he had been too harsh with Daniel Jackson, in their fight. The linguist was as dedicated to the cause of destroying the Goa'uld as Teal'c was. It was in his nature to study people and their ways, just as it was in Major Carter's nature to study the starts and ships and weapons. But Teal'c did not know how to apologize. It was not something Jaffa often did.
Instead, he gathered his courage and brought up the subject he had been avoiding. "It will soon be two years since the death of Sha'uri," he said. Two years since he had killed her. Teal'c would rather not speak of her, but Daniel Jackson was one who required words to express himself. And in this of all things, Daniel Jackson's needs were more important than Teal'c's comfort.
Daniel Jackson heaved a sigh. "Yeah," he said. "Wish I had my watch, to know exactly when it is. Not that the exact date matters, I suppose. Iskitani days are close enough in length to Earth days to get a rough estimate of when the anniversary is." He shifted restlessly on his stool. "Sometimes it doesn't seem like she can possibly have been gone two years already, I'm still half-way expecting to hear news about her when we go offworld. And then other times it seems like she's been gone for decades, not just years. You know I spent three times as long searching for her as I did actually living with her? I'm glad we got her body. I don't know that I could have accepted she was really gone, without it."
"Is there anything you wish to do in her memory?" Teal'c asked.
"Besides visit Abydos?" Daniel Jackson said. "And then destroy all Goa'uld? They're both about as likely, now. I was hoping we'd get rescued in time for me to be with Kasuf and Skaara for the anniversary, but that's not going to happen." He shook his head.
"I don't know," he said at last. "You know, last year on the anniversary of Sha'uri's death, we were stuck underground on P3R-118 and I thought my name was Karlan and I didn't even know who Sha'uri was? I suppose this is an improvement—I know who she was and I can remember her, even if I can't visit her grave and share stories of her with our family."
"Indeed," Teal'c said. He waited to see if Daniel Jackson had anything further to say,
"I'd like to go out away from town," he said. "Be on my own for a bit. On the wilderness side—it's not much like Abydos, but it's closer than the rest of the area. But," he stretched out his leg, "I won't be able to do that for a while. It's too much hassle to get out far enough to be really alone as long as I'm on crutches."
"If that is what you wish, there are ways to accomplish it," Teal'c said. "There are a few mastadges in the town, even though most are away at pasture. We could borrow one for you to ride. And if we cannot borrow a mastadge, I could carry you."
"Would you?" Daniel Jackson said, his face a mix of hope and embarrassment.
"You would do the same if it were me," Teal'c said.
"I'd try, but you're a bit big for me to carry," Daniel Jackson said with a smile.
"It is fortunate, then, that I am healthy and you are the one injured," Teal'c said.
But it was a simple matter to borrow a mastadge to convey the injured man out to the wilderness, and so Teal'c did, depositing Daniel Jackson on a ridge with a good view and then retreating to a distance to give him privacy with his grief.
Teal'c had spent so much of the last two months feeling useless, chafing at the restrictions on what he could and could not say. It was good to accomplish something, even something as simple as an excursion so that Daniel Jackson might be alone with his memories for a time.
The ceremony had been interesting. And informative. Daniel would be very curious to see what it had been like when Juno came regularly, because he would bet good money that some things had been subtly altered. There was no doubt that they worshipped Juno, still, and that Juno's glory had been the centerpiece of the service. But it was about Juno's role in the community. In Daniel's experience, Goa'uld mostly desired their own prowess to be remembered. A sort of chest-thumping self-aggrandizement in which the people who worshipped them played very little part, except to heap them with praises.
This ceremony … had been about a mutual relationship. What the people got (or thought they got) from Juno, and what Juno got from them.
Afterwards, there was a dance in the square in front of the Temple, as people feasted on the meat that had been sacrificed to Juno earlier. Teal'c was off enjoying the food somewhere. Daniel sat on a stool someone had found for him, and drank the wine they had given him, and wondered. Did that make them more vulnerable to any Goa'uld who found them, or less? On the one hand, it was probably a lot more effective form of indoctrination than the usual Goa'uld approach. On the other … it meant that if a Goa'uld did come here, they would expect things of it that it would not be able to give. "I'm here and I'm powerful" would not be sufficient incentive to the Iskitani. The Juno they worshipped was capricious and dangerous, but she cared for them. And Goa'uld didn't care about anyone but themselves.
The sharp-eyed woman who had watched Nuesi the priestess explain the Temple to him turned out to be Alakhebasken, the Chief Priestess. She had a clear soprano voice and a good sense of theatricality, running the worship service with flair and distinction. She'd been keeping an eye on him today, too, and after the party had been going for a while she drifted across the square to the corner where Daniel was sitting.
When she arrived, someone found her a chair and the people who had been talking or drinking nearby wandered away. Daniel wasn't sure whether it was something pre-arranged, or a signal she had given, or merely custom to give the priestess privacy even at the midst of a party, but between the space and the music there was no chance of anyone overhearing.
"What do you think of our holy day?" she asked him.
"It was very interesting," Daniel said truthfully. "You have many talented people, here, to pull it all together."
Alakhebasken inclined her head. "We do. And we are very faithful to Juno, who gives us the gifts we use in her praise."
"I've seen that in my time here," Daniel said. "Juno is fortunate to have such devoted people."
"Interesting words, coming from a man with no gods at all," Alakhebasken said, switching to Goa'uld. All the Iskitani knew at least a few words of the Goa'uld language, but few spoke it with any fluency. Even if someone were close enough to hear, they probably couldn’t understand the conversation.
Daniel thought about explaining that not believing the Goa'uld were gods was not the same thing as not believing there were gods, somewhere. There were a lot of believers in various gods at the SGC, mostly Christians. But it was true that he, himself, was somewhere between atheist and agnostic. "I can appreciate your skill and faithfulness without sharing either," he said, following her lead in choice of languages.
"True," Alakhebasken said. "It is good that you and Teal'c have been … circumspect in your time here. We are faithful people. We neither need nor want your faithlessness. It would be a hard thing indeed to rescind hospitality we have given, so I am glad you did not force us to do so."
Daniel nodded. "We realize the … delicacy of your position. We're not here to make trouble. We just want to get home."
"It is that which I wish to speak about," Alakhebasken said. "You have been here almost two months, and your friends have not yet appeared to bring you home. When do you expect them?"
"I don't know," Daniel said. "They know where we were, and they know where we were headed, and I know they'll never stop looking for us. How long it will take them to track along our route and find us … that I don't know. And much as they might like to spend all their time searching for us, they have other obligations as well."
"To rescue you, they have to find you first," Alakhebasken said. "And you were not able to communicate your location from the ship you arrived in?"
"No," Daniel said, "it was broken. You know what a communications device is?" He was fairly sure that it would never have occurred to, say, Kaditede that there was a way to send messages instantaneously from one place to another without having someone physically go there.
"In the temples, we know a great deal more about the gods and their magic devices than most people," Alakhebasken said.
"Devices—so you know it's something they have, rather than something they do," Daniel said.
"They create the devices," Alakhebasken said.
"But anyone can use them," Daniel said.
"But only the gods can create them."
"No, only the people who know how can create them," Daniel said. "It's not something only Goa'uld can do, just a secret they keep."
Alakhebasken raised an eyebrow. "And can you make one? If you could, you wouldn't have to wait for your friends to find you."
Daniel opened his mouth to protest that it took the right parts and tools, which they didn't have, but she turned dismissively away from him.
"Ah, Teal'c!" Alakhebasken said before Daniel could say anything. "I have never met a Jaffa before." She eyed him up and down. "Hm. I can see why your people are favored for fighting the gods' battles."
"Indeed," Teal'c said darkly.
"We have just established that your people will have to find Iskit before they can rescue you, as they don't know exactly where you are," Alakehbasken said. "What happens when they do?"
"What do you mean?" Teal'c asked.
"Will they come and take you away and never return?" Alakhebasken asked. "Or will you tell them that Juno hasn't been here for so long and we are ripe for conquest?" At Teal'c's sharp look she sighed. "I am a priestess, the keeper of knowledge about the gods and the one who ensures they are worshipped rightly. I know a great deal about the larger galaxy. I know just how vulnerable we are, and how other Goa'uld would treat us if they could."
"You know Juno's dead," Daniel realized. "You know why she hasn't come back in so long."
"Gods cannot die," Alakhebasken said. "At least not permanently."
"Do you have a communication device?" Daniel asked. "That's how you know it's possible, isn't it. You've been listening to the larger galaxy."
"If we possessed such a device, and if it were working, and if we used it, any Goa'uld who happened to overhear our call might find us and conquer us," Alakhebasken said. "Then we would be enslaved and would not be here for Juno when she returns and needs us. But no one can track us if we only listen. Truly, it was fortunate that your ship's communication device was destroyed."
"We have been here for two months," Teal'c pointed out. "If you are curious, why ask now, and not when we first arrived?"
"If your friends had shown up mere days after you did, nothing I said or asked would have made a difference," Alakhebasken pointed out. "If they already knew where you were and it was just a matter of travelling here, then the less you knew about us the better. But if they don't know and must find you, then things become rather different. They may find you tomorrow; they may never find you. And if they will never find you here, then the extra time spent studying you before making any decisions becomes quite important."
"What decisions?" Daniel asked. "Unless … you do have a long-range communications device, and want to know if we can be trusted to use it."
"No." Alakhebasken shook her head firmly. "If we did possess such a device, it could never be used to do anything but listen, lest it give our existence away. I ask again: if you were back home tomorrow, what would you tell them about us?"
"We'd tell our people you existed and where you are, but the Goa'uld would never find out from us," Daniel said. "We fight the Goa'uld, we don't share information with them. And we don't have any interest in conquest—we have enough problems fighting the Goa'uld."
"Your planet is of some value to the Goa'uld, who desire luxury," Teal'c said, "but we are interested in more practical matters. You have no weapons to trade for, nor rare minerals, nor information we cannot find elsewhere, nor people willing to fight alongside us. You have nothing we want or need that we cannot find elsewhere."
"Honestly, we'd prefer you stay free of the Goa'uld," Daniel said. "If that means you stay hidden, that's fine with us."
"Hmm," Alakhebasken said. "Well, I'm just a simple parish priestess, any decisions to be made are above my level. But Kaditede and Senkamanisken both vouch for you; that should work in your favor. If you would truly keep our existence a secret, there is no need to fear your return to your people." She stood. "Enjoy the rest of the party."
"Huh," Daniel said, watching her leave. "I wonder if they'll let us use their communication device after all? If not, we might be able to find it and use it anyway. It's probably in the capital city in the main temple, somewhere. We'd have to find an excuse to go there, given that neither one of us can really blend in here."
"I wonder if they have a Stargate in addition to their communication device," Teal'c said. "And if they might let us use it."
"Well, you're a bit old for an apprentice, Teal'c," Paiftauaabaste said as they ate the noon meal, "but having the extra muscle has been nice. Not to mention your help figuring out how to work this new metal. It's been quite exciting."
"It has been a long time since I was an apprentice," Teal'c said. "I have been glad of the occupation."
"I'm told you'll be leaving soon," Paiftauaabaste said, taking a swig of his beer. "Glad they left it until after we'd gotten through the experimental stage."
This was the first Teal'c had heard that they would be leaving. It had been two weeks since the priestess had hinted that there might be a way to contact their people or leave the planet, but there had been no news or hints since. He and Daniel Jackson had discussed various plans to travel to the capital city and try to find a stargate or communications device, but had decided that it was more practical at this point to wait and see what decisions the priestesses made. He looked over at Senkamanisken, who was seated at his usual spot.
"Lady Alakhebasken wants to see you and your friend this afternoon," Senkamanisken said. "They'll be sending you to the main temple—I understand the High Priestess has heard of your story and wishes to be generous."
"That is kind of her," Teal'c said dryly.
"Very," Paiftauaabaste said, missing the hint of irony. He was an intelligent man, but not much given to social nuance.
Senkamanisken, on the other hand, sent Teal'c a sharp glance.
"So what will you do when you get back to your home?" Paiftauaabaste asked. "Assuming you do. It's obvious you are accustomed to great activity, and don't like being still."
"I am a warrior," Teal'c said. "My job is to fight those who would attack and enslave my people, to protect those who cannot fight for themselves."
"And fight for the glory of your god," Paiftauaabaste added. "As all Jaffa do. Still, I wouldn't have thought that would be a job that would take all of your time."
"The galaxy is a dangerous place," Teal'c said. "There are many threats that my people must be defended from."
"Sounds exhausting," Senkamanisken said. "I would have thought you would welcome the chance for a break."
"While I am here, there is one fewer defender," Teal'c said. "I am a great fighter. But there is nothing here for me to fight, and nothing that needs defense." There were things to fight, on Iskit, but not with strength of arms. And he could not fight their belief in the Goa'uld while he depended on their hospitality, and after they left, he would have more important battles to fight.
"No wonder you have been restless in your time here," Paiftauaabaste said. "I can't imagine two whole months—more than that, even!—without my forge. A few days' break, yes, but two months! I would be itching to do something."
"I thank you for the opportunity to help," Teal'c said. "It was a productive and interesting way of passing the time."
"I doubt we shall meet again," Paiftauaabaste said. "I hope you find your way home. May Juno favor you in all your travels and in every fight against your enemies. And thank you again for the great gift of your sky-chariot, and the help figuring out how to work the metal from it."
"You are welcome," Teal'c said stiffly, forcing himself not to bristle at the blessing.
"Be safe and well, Teal'c," Senkamanisken said.
"I hope that you both prosper, and live well," Teal'c said.
While they waited for Alakhebasken to tell them what decision had been made, Daniel had made good use of the time by starting the process of learning to walk again. It wasn't the same as physical therapy would be, but he was only using one crutch these days, and then only when he was walking longer distances. The leg didn't hurt much, which was a good sign. But it was harder to concentrate on his linguistic and cultural studies now that he was pretty sure there was either a communication device or a stargate somewhere on the planet for them to find, so the increase in physical activity was a good thing.
Once the decision had been made, though, things went quickly. One morning, Kaditede arrived with a young girl in rough clothes trailing behind her.
"Lady Alakhebasken has said that you are to go to the city, where the High Priestess will be able to help you," Kaditede said. "You will not be returning here. We shall need to pack up your things."
"We don't exactly have much," Daniel said. "But I'll need a case for my notes, so they don't get crumpled or soiled."
"I thought of that," Kaditede said, gesturing to the girl. Very shortly, what little they had accumulated on Iskitani had been packed. A change of clothes for each of them, sleeping mats and blankets, Daniel's notes, their dishware, a few trinkets. Kaditede included the hangings on the walls, but not the cookware. It all fit into two sacks, which the girl carried for them on the way to the temple.
"My cousin will bring Teal'c shortly," Kaditede said when they arrived.
"Thank you, for all you have done," Daniel said. "You have been so generous, with your skills and your time and your stories."
She shrugged. "You were the most interesting thing to happen here in years, it was no trouble. I believe I shall miss you."
"And I you, though I will be glad to be home," Daniel said.
Teal'c arrived soon after that, and the two of them were ushered into Alakhebasken's office. She asked them to swear that they would keep the existence and location of Iskit private, which they did. Then they and their packs were bundled into a boat and sent down-river on a three-days journey to the capital city, passing several other towns along the way. Iskitani boasted a large civilization, larger than Goa'uld usually tolerated, but Daniel supposed that might be because Juno was so infrequently here even before her death.
There was a pyramid just outside the city that bore the marks of having been used as a landing pad, though they were faint and old. In the center of the city was a temple, much larger and grander than the one in the town they'd been staying in. At their arrival, the temple guards escorted them in to see the high priestess, who asked them to reiterate the promise they'd made to Alakhebasken and then brought them in to a large inner room in the heart of the Temple.
In the center of the room there stood a Stargate, with a large embroidered cloth draped through the center of it.
"That's clever," Daniel said. "Most places, if they don't want anybody coming through their Stargate, they bury it completely so it can't be used."
"Why would they do that?" the high priestess asked. "It sounds like an awful lot of trouble to go to, when all you need to do is put something through the ring to prevent its use. This way, when Juno calls us to say she is coming through the Chappa'ai, it takes only a few minutes to make things ready for her."
True to her words, a team of junior priestesses was gathering up the cloth and setting it off to one side. "If Juno were using the Stargate, we'd hang it up as a tapestry to show the goddess our work," the high priestess said.
"Of course," Daniel said, trying not to show his impatience. Beside him, Teal'c shifted minutely. He must be very excited to let even that much show through his normally stoic façade.
A number of priestesses stood chatting quietly around the room, watching him and Teal'c. Daniel supposed it made sense; it was probably the first time in two centuries anyone on the planet had seen a Stargate in use.
Once the cloth was removed and everyone was out of the way, the priestess gestured to the DHD, and Teal'c dialed the Alpha Site. There was the brilliant blue whoosh of the wormhole forming and stabilizing.
"Thank you so much for letting us go home," Daniel said. Even though he was still a little miffed that they hadn't immediately told them they had one, he supposed he understood, a little. They were a defenseless world, unfamiliar with strangers. Why should they show their secrets easily and quickly? But it didn't hurt to be courteous, even though he'd probably never see anyone here again.
"You are welcome," the priestess said.
Teal'c and Daniel hefted their packs, and then walked up the steps and through the wormhole.
At the Alpha Site they were greeted by armed guards, who immediately dialed Earth for them and send through a GDO code. Within ten minutes, they were stepping on to the metal ramp in the SGC. After two months of waiting, it was absurdly simple.
General Hammond was in the control room. "Teal'c, Doctor Jackson," he said. "It's good to see you. Bra'tac's had people out looking for you, but we feared the worst. What happened?"
"We crashed on a planet where the Stargate was hidden," Daniel said. "It took us a while to convince the locals we were trustworthy enough to be told about it."
"Anything of interest there?" Hammond asked.
"No," Teal'c said. "They produced luxury cloth for Juno, who has been dead for two centuries."
"Lots of interesting linguistic and cultural stuff," Daniel said. "But nothing with strategic or military or technological importance."
"As for the original mission, we learned much, but not who Tanith's master is," Teal'c said.
"That's a shame," Hammond said. "We haven't figured that out either. Well, we can debrief later. Right now, the two of you need to get down to medical to be cleared and to have Doctor Jackson's leg looked at. I'll tell your teammates you're back. Welcome home."
Teal'c had been examined and cleared, but Daniel Jackson was still being tested when O'Neill and Major Carter arrived. It was a satisfying reunion; they had all missed each other, and O'Neill and Major Carter had feared they might be dead.
"Sounds like your two months has been even more boring than ours has," O'Neill said while they waited for Janet to be finished with Daniel. "Once we checked all the planets with stargates between your last known location and Earth, the search had to be left to Bra'tac's people … and they were fitting it in between other work, after the first couple of weeks. Carter got in a lot of lab time, which she appreciated, and I spent a lot of time training new recruits. And occasionally we got sent out with other teams as backup."
"I think General Hammond was getting some pressure to declare you dead and put replacements on SG-1," Major Carter said. "I'm glad he held off until you made it home. I can't even imagine what the team would be like without you guys."
"No kidding," O'Neill said.
Doctor Frasier stuck her head through the door to the examination room. "You guys can come in now," she said.
They filed in and found seats around Daniel Jackson's bed.
"So, doc, what's the verdict?" O'Neill asked.
"Daniel here was very lucky," Doctor Frasier said, gesturing to an X-Ray of Daniel Jackson's leg. "It was a clean break, and a simple fracture, and this local healer—Kaditede, you said her name was?—did a good job of setting it and keeping you off it until it had time to heal. We won't have to go in surgically to fix anything, and you're mostly done healing. At this point, a bit of physical therapy should have you fit for duty in just a few weeks."
"Perfect," Daniel said. "That will give me time to write up what I learned on Iskit. Well, assuming a more urgent translation doesn't come up."
O'Neill shrugged. "It's been pretty quiet since the destruction of Tollana. Suspiciously so—you'd think something major like that would make more of a ripple, but whoever it was that had the ability to take down the Tollan people, they haven't made any moves since that we can find."
"We're pretty much back in normal mode," Major Carter added. "Looking for new allies and new technology."
"What mission will we be sent on?" Teal'c asked. "I am eager to rejoin the fight."
"Well, the schedule's always subject to change, of course," Major Carter said. "But given the specialist missions and the ones already assigned, the next planet on the schedule for exploration is P3A-194. No special intelligence about it, it's just the next planet on the schedule for checking out. Unless something changes between now and then, it's probably a good mission for getting our feet wet again."
"Nice, simple exploration," O'Neill said. "Does it ever happen that way?"
"We can always hope," Daniel Jackson said with a shrug.