Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Pairing: Mostly gen, but heavy subtext for various pairings
Summary: Demeter and Persephone fistfight in heaven.
Many similar myths developed more or less independently, incorporating common images and motifs. These archetypes are thought to spring from common experiential factors or, as some Jungian theorists argue, a ‘collective unconscious,’ a sort of shared genetic memory that exists across cultures.
Commonalities in the myths of mothers and daughters across these cultures give rise to an interesting set of archetypes, which cannot exist without one another. This is an intriguing and problematic psychological concept: every woman exists as both an extension into the past (as her own mother) and the future (as her own daughter).The most recognized mother-daughter story in this mythological tradition, of course, is that of Demeter and Persephone. The story has its roots in Crete and ancient Greece, possibly extending back even further, and is a seminal construct of the Great Mother archetype present across a wide variety of mythologies and folk tales.
-- Daughters in Exile: Female Archetypes and the Heroic Quest in Greek, Roman and Near Eastern Myth, M.A. Thesis, Daniel M. Jackson, University of Notre Dame, April 19, 1990
The leaves are dying when Daniel brings Vala home.
They’re both a little thinner, a little greyer, a little more lined around the eyes. Her hand in his is bony, clawlike, and she holds him too tightly. Sam exclaims softly when she hugs him and says she can feel his ribs, even through the fabric of the flak jacket someone drapes around him.
It’s been months, but feels more like years.
It’s colder on Earth than it had been on Sahal. He can feel the damp creeping into his bones, making him creak like an old man. It’s as though whatever technique, whatever power (he will not call it magic) the Ori used to age the child aged him as well. He looks at Vala’s face, drawn and dark in the fluorescent lights of the base, and he thinks maybe it aged her, too.
Or maybe that’s just what grief looks like. He’d forgotten, but he remembers now.
Grief yet more terrible and savage… It’s an old, old story and one he’d managed briefly to forget.
Vala doesn’t speak when they sit her down in the infirmary, she doesn’t even flinch when they draw blood. Daniel, on the other hand, finds he can’t stop talking. He describes his part in the battle, how he was taken prisoner, what happened to the rest of the crew. He does not talk about Sahal, or what happened during the months he was there. He most certainly doesn’t mention the child.
Sam just nods and holds his hand. Mitchell and Teal’c keep a respectful distance, not speaking until Daniel pauses to draw breath.
“Yeah, but what happened out there? You know, after?” Mitchell asks.
The real question, of course, is what didn’t.
Sahal is a beautiful planet, starlit and warm, with mountain ranges lining deep seas and a night that lasts longer than the day. It is nearly always twilight somewhere on the largest continent, the sun sinking behind the mountains, the flowers opening in the evening breeze. The original inhabitants of the planet worshipped night. They gave her a name and made her offerings of flame and gems and the bones of living things.
Sahal is also the new home of Origin and its armies. The planet was taken in glorious battle, a clash between good and evil, a pitched fight between sleek silver ships in the sky and armored warriors on the ground.
It was a magnificent day to behold.
Sahal is home to the will of the Ori, the hope of all who follow the Path. The soldiers come to visit her, this round-cheeked, dark-haired child. They bring her offerings and ask her blessing. She reaches out with chubby hands and touches their faces, rough with stubble and scarred from battle. She is little more than a toddler, but within her tiny heart she holds the fate of them all.
On this night (the day is long past evening and deep into darkness) the child is laughing. She is playing with the tiny glowing moths she keeps in lanterns around the shrine built to honor her. She eats red fruit cured in wine from a tiny silver bowl and drinks scented water from a simple cup. She is, for this moment, perfectly content.
She doesn’t ask where her mother has gone, and it will be days yet before she does.
Myths from many cultures feature a goddess and a story of her return from the land of the dead. Beyond the more commonly known story of Demeter, we find the myth of Isis and Osiris in Egyptian mythology. In Phrygia, we find Cybele and Attis, in Sumeria, Inanna and Dumuzi. The Sumerian myth of Inanna, in particular, shares much in common with Demeter and Persephone. The major differentiating factor between the two stories is that Inanna finds herself in a struggle with another goddess: Ereshkigal, ruler of the Sumerian underworld.
When she's old enough, the Priors let her choose her own name.
She's supposed to go out into the wilderness and fast for three days, then look into the flames of Origin and a name will be revealed to her.
Instead, she finds her name in one of the thick books her mother left behind.
Mirit, from the Hebrew. It's a beautiful language, and she secretly likes the poetry and the songs despite their obvious blasphemy. There's a notation underneath the name, written in a distracted hand that she knows instinctively didn't belong to Vala.
Literally: will of god; also associated, like many of the female names, with the idea of bitterness or loss...
The handwriting trails off there -- a man's handwriting, she realizes, and not her father's. The words are written in the still slightly unfamiliar symbols of the Unbelievers. The pencil mark drifts off the side of the page, as though the writer was called away suddenly or simply forgot what he meant to put down next.
They send her out into the forest on a holy day, when the people are prostrate in prayer for hours at a time. When she returns there will be feasting and music and dramatic retellings of the history of Origin. Her own story is among those tales, and it’s how she knows where she came from and what is expected of her.
The forest is hushed and mossy, the morning sun giving little light through the trees. She lies on her back on the soft ground, listening to the breeze, the sound of rushing water, the songs of birds as they begin to wake up.
She does not hear anything else. The Ori are not speaking to her.
She continues this way for two more days, and on the evening of the third, she begins to panic. The Priors are coming for her after the sun sets, and she has no indication that she’s accomplished her task.
Back in the city, the buildings are taller than she remembered the crush of people closer, the shadow of the temple larger and darker. They’ve lit fires in the temple square, and the Priors lead her to the largest one, blue-flamed and smelling of incense.
When she looks into the fire, she sees nothing.
So instead she says the name from the book, swallowing down her fear that somehow the Priors will know she's lying.
She's beyond them and their ability to know. That's the first moment she stops needing them, thinks maybe she doesn't have to blindly heed their words.
The Priors disapprove of her choice, she can tell.
“Know your enemy,” is the only answer she gives them when they ask what the name means.
She is one hundred and seventy days old, daughter to the Great Mother and the Hero of the Battle of Sahal, born into fire, divinely conceived by the Ori themselves.
She isn’t afraid of anyone.
On another planet, one not so far from Sahal as the Earth, the people are still waiting for Arthur to return.
Valencia knows better.
She’s known since she pulled the sword from its stone and put it into Cameron Mitchell’s hands. Arthur is dead. He died a long time ago, and if they wait for him they will wait forever. He is not coming to save them; he never was. This does not, however, mean that no one is. The legends aren’t false, just misunderstood. Valencia knows this now, but doesn’t dare say so out loud.
She’s young, untried, merely a girl despite what she’s already done. No one would listen. No one seems to recognize the significance of her hands on that sword, of her hands in Cameron Mitchell’s. It was a revelation, but so far she’s the only one to see what was revealed.
The men of the village took the sword after the battle with the Black Knight. They took it and laid it in a place of honor in the central hall. Valencia hasn’t touched it since the first time.
Late one night, though, weeks after Merlin’s library opened and the men from Earth departed, she creeps into the hall at midnight and takes the sword in hand again. It feels right there, as though it belongs to her and her alone. If she concentrates, closes her eyes and breathes quietly, she almost thinks she can feel where the sword has been touched before. There are grooves and divots and places where the polish has worn smooth. She imagines she can tell which touches belonged to Arthur, which ones belonged to Cameron Mitchell, and the places where the two overlapped.
She’s waiting, she realizes then, just like the others. The difference is, she knows what she’s waiting for.
The next morning, she cuts her hair short, like a novice, and waits for Cameron Mitchell to come back.
The Eleusinian mysteries were performed annually to honor Demeter. If the rites of Eleusis fell during a time of war, a truce would be proclaimed and bring the fighting to a temporary halt. Combatants would participate in the mysteries just as during peacetime -- though these participants would engage in special rites to honor the dead. Ritual libations were poured on the ground, the consecrated liquid flowing eastward and westward.
On the first nice day of the year, General Landry throws a barbeque, with wine and beer, music, and the ritual burning of animal meat. It is, Daniel points out, very pagan of them.
It’s also completely irresponsible, at least in Vala’s eyes. Somehow, though, she manages not to say so out loud.
It’s Sam who comes to fetch her from the base, pity in her eyes that makes Vala want to strike out and say something cruel. She doesn’t though, mostly because of Sam’s companion: a familiar-unfamiliar figure, someone Vala has heard a lot about.
“You’re General O’Neill,” she says, intrigued in spite of herself.
“That’s what it says on the uniform.”
He’s exactly what she expected.
She follows them through the base, noting their cautious body language and feeling a bit like a third wheel -- and not in the fun way. The weather feels like rain when they emerge aboveground, like maybe there’s a storm on the horizon. It’s not a perfect day for a picnic, but the general -- she decides she’d rather call him Jack -- says that it’s going to clear up and be a beautiful afternoon.
It does. It is.
General Landry lives in a cookie-cutter house in one of Colorado Springs many suburban neighborhoods. It’s the sort of place that gives Vala an itch, that makes her want to steal the nearest space ship and flee to a less savory part of the galaxy.
Of course, on Earth that’s easier said than done, so she accepts a plastic cup full of cheap wine and a seat at the backyard picnic table.
The generals do their warrior-man greeting ritual – slaps and grunts and friendly challenges – but there’s a strange charge on the air never quite goes away. It does ease some when the others begin to show up, though.
Mitchell brings a girl – strawberry bottle-blonde and a little too young for him. Daniel, on the other hand, comes alone.
There's a dirty joke in there, but it's too much effort to make it.
Mitchell grabs a couple beers, tossing one to his date, and flings himself down onto the picnic bench beside Sam, rather spectacularly invading her personal space.
“Hi, Cam. How are you?” she says, like they haven’t just spent five days sharing a tent on P3X-509.
Their intimacy is more sibling than sexual, but Jack notices, frowning deeply. Daniel notices his reaction, and Teal’c frowns, which makes Sam and Mitchell notice, and Vala, of course, notices Daniel noticing.
They’re just one big happy dysfunctional family.
The only one who doesn’t seem to notice (or who perhaps simply chooses not to care) is Mitchell’s date, who takes a seat on Mitchell’s other side, and just seems happy and average and inclined to be friends with everyone.
After a bottle of wine or two, Vala’s usually inclined to be friends with everyone, too. That night, though, is different. She opens another bottle, deciding not to bother with a glass, and finds an empty chaise lounge in a dark corner of the yard.
The bottle is nearly empty when a shadow blocks out what little light there is, and Daniel asks, “What are you doing?”
He’s clearly been drinking a bit more than usual himself. He sways slightly as he stands over her.
“I should think that would be fairly obvious,” she says, feeling suddenly, irrationally, vulnerable with Daniel looming over her and the fence at her back.
She spills the wine when she tries to stand. Daniel takes the bottle from her and she thinks he’s going to scold her, to tell her she’s had too much to drink. Instead, he upends the bottle, pouring Charles Shaw cab-merlot all over the general’s marigolds.
“At the festival of Eleusis, the ancient Greeks anointed the ground with sanctified wines to honor the dead,” he says. His eyes are glassy and he looks at her just a little too long.
Actually, after a minute or so of staring back at him, she stumbles away, tripping over an ice-filled cooler and steadying herself on the back of a lawn chair.
He lets her go, but she can feel him watching her all the way to the back door.
Someone is taking an impossibly long time in the downstairs bathroom, so she climbs up to the darkened second floor, trying to ignore the fact that the world has started to spin sickeningly around her.
She falls onto the bathroom tile, not even bothering to shut the door, and rests her head on the lid of the toilet. She’s not sure how long she lies there, listening to the rise and fall of voices, feeling the bass vibrations of the stereo through the floor.
"Are you all right?" someone says after what feels like an eternity.
It's Mitchell's date. Her name is Kimberley, or Jennifer, or Tiffany. Something. She’s standing in the doorway, one hand on the doorknob, the other on the sink.
“Pull it together, Vala,” Mitchell snaps, walking into the bathroom as well.
Ah, tough love. How typical.
His date gives him a sharp look. “She’s upset.”
“I know, Kim,” he begins, relenting a little, his forehead wrinkling. “It’s just- Well, it’s complicated.”
“My baby died,” Vala lies, and Kim looks stricken. Mitchell just narrows his eyes and crosses his arms over his chest. He doesn’t challenge the statement, though.
“I think I might be sick,” she adds. “Just so you know.”
Kim holds her hair back while she throws up. Mitchell brings her a glass of water, and the two of them make her rinse her mouth and brush her teeth before they let her sink back onto the cool tile floor. The last thing she remembers after that is Daniel’s voice from downstairs, speaking loudly and rapidly, but she can’t make out the words. He’s still talking as she starts to fade, challenging and bargaining and finally falling silent.
She wakes up in an unfamiliar bed, with a familiar body next to her.
He's still in the clothes he wore the night before, but he's barefoot and his glasses are on the nightstand. It makes him look younger, uncharacteristically vulnerable, a little naked. In another context it would be appealing.
"And how are we feeling this morning?" Daniel says, sounding mostly annoyed, but also (a little) genuinely concerned.
Her head is pounding and she feels like she has grains of sand trapped behind her eyelids, but there's no way she's going to admit it.
"Where are we?" she says instead. The ceiling is blue and the sheets are mismatched flannel.
"The general's guestroom, which is... weird." He grimaces, chagrined, and for a moment he's exactly the Daniel she remembers.
She swallows hard, but then shrugs and says as lightly as possible, "He should have come to expect my excesses by now."
"Yours? Maybe. I think mine, on the other hand, were something of a shock."
And here she'd thought he'd stayed to look after her.
“I think Jack might have a thing or two to say to me,” he says, after a minute. “He and Sam pretty much carried me in here last night.”
“They put us in here together? How naughty. I think my estimation of General O’Neill might have just gone up a notch or two.” She sounds like her old self, and Daniel actually laughs.
“I’m not sure they realized you were here until they got me all the way downstairs. The only other spare room is on the second floor, and Jack kept complaining about his back and his bum knee and his... Well, anyway…”
He lays a hand on the flat of her belly. Their inconsistent intimacy confuses her. There are certain boundaries they never cross, things they never talk about. Right now, though, mostly it’s just nice to be touched.
He sighs into her ear, and she wonders if there’s something he wants to say to her. She watches him for a moment and he opens his eyes.
They are very close. She can feel his breath on the skin of her jawline.
“I’m sorry,” he says softly.
The lovers and offspring of Demeter have great significance in the goddess’s evolution, as Demeter is simultaneously an active part of her own journey and a body who is acted upon. Persephone was conceived, against Demeter’s will in most versions of the myth, with Zeus Euobouleus. Zeus's presence is interesting, considering that Zeus and Hades, the dark god of the Underworld who will later become Persephone’s husband, appear as interchangeable figures in many early myths. Zeus is depicted as both the god of heaven and of the underworld, making Hades simply Zeus’s mirror image, the dark aspect of one single god.
The most mysterious of all Demeter's lovers, however, is Iasion. Whether he is mortal or slightly more than mortal (perhaps the son of a god and a mortal woman) is the subject of much debate. What is clear is that Demeter desired him and that he was punished (possibly by Zeus) for pursuing her. Certain sources also infer that Iasion may have been her first initiate into the Eleusian Mysteries.
Tomin is the child’s father in every way that matters. And if she tells herself that enough times, it might even start to stick.
Tomin is a good man. The best, quite possibly, of all the men Vala has ever known. He loves her. This goes without saying, though he says it often anyway. She loves him, too, though she only allows herself to say it out loud the one time.
"I'm so blessed," he says, his eyes going soft in that way that makes her breath catch.
"Yes." She's suddenly angry, tearful. It must be the hormones. "Yes, and all they ask in return is your life. Isn't that a bargain?"
He just smiles and puts a hand to her cheek. He figured out weeks ago that her sudden penitence was just an act. He never brings it up, never challenges her about it, because he's good at pretending things are the ways he wants them to be. This is how he wants things, this way he can have them both, his gods and her.
"It's true. I've promised them my life," he leans his forehead against hers, "but you have my heart. I'll come back to you. We'll always be together."
"You could be killed." He will be; she feels it in her gut.
"Even then," he says, and she knows he believes it.
“I love you,” she says, and kisses him differently than she’s ever kissed him before.
He only holds his daughter once before he leaves for battle. He goes to Sahal, bright and bold and handsome in his armor, and he never comes back.
Vala truly mourns him, both for herself and for her daughter who will never know him.
Of course, the child isn’t without a father for long.
Mirit grows another three inches in the week before she first hears the name ‘Camelot’.
The Priors chart her growth in gold chalk on a far wall of the small shrine behind the new temple. The spot is lit by votives and heavy with the scent of incense.
“What is Camelot?” she asks, craning her neck to see the chalk mark.
“Where is Camelot,” the Prior corrects. “It’s a planet, and it’s not far from here. There are people there thirsting for the teachings of Origin. There are those who wish to walk the Path.”
“Are there?” she says. “And what of those that don’t?”
“They must follow the Path or be destroyed.”
She frowns. “That is not my will.”
“It is the will of the Ori,” he replies.
“My will is the will of the Ori,” she says firmly, “and that is not my will. We will go to Camelot, we will meet these people. We will give them a choice.”
She has a dim and distant memory of books and of her father’s eyes. She doesn’t think he would have approved of Prior’s way of doing things.
She goes to the temple that day and offers a prayer for her parents. She offers a prayer to her parents as well, because she knows they’re watching her from a higher plane.
Her father was martyred at the hands of the Unbelievers. Her mother ascended into the fires of Origin when Mirit was still just an infant. Penitents come to the newly-built temple on Sahal, clutching icons depicting them both. They’re soldiers, most of them, and they press the icons into Mirit’s hands begging for a blessing. She blesses the tokens, kissing the images of her parents, clasping the hands of those who follow the Path. The icons, the murals in the temple, are the only images she’s seen of her parents. Her mother is dark and severe; her father fair and strong.
She has another memory of her mother that isn’t quite like her portrayal in those pictures, but Mirit isn’t sure whether it’s real or just a dream. She has a memory of a man: a kind voice, a gentle hand on her forehead, the scents of candle smoke and ink.
Some days she thinks it’s a memory of her father, and others she’s nearly convinced it’s not.
He goes down with the ship.
It’s not an act of nobility on Daniel’s part, simply the reality of the situation. The Odyssey falls in the battle for Sahal. They’re already in atmosphere, but that’s not enough to explain how exactly Daniel survives.
It’s a miracle. Or, it would be, if he were the sort of man who believed in miracles. Either way, it would be hard for him to imagine a miracle that took fifty other lives, and spared Daniel’s, for no apparent reason.
When he wakes up, he can’t move. His limbs are heavy and his head throbs, but at least he can feel everything. He opens his eyes, and all his arms and legs appear to be where they’re supposed to be.
He’s not in a hospital. The bed he’s in is primitive and his wounds have been tended to, but not via conventional, or even more advanced technological, measures. Even in his disoriented state he realizes what that must mean.
He can hear people in the next room, speaking softly and slowly.
“No. I’ll stay. He needs watching.”
The voice is familiar. He ought to have known it would be her.
"Hello, Daniel," Vala says, sometime later when his head has cleared and the ache in his gut has eased a little. “It’s all right. The Priors fixed you.” There’s something in the way she says it that makes him think maybe his ‘survival’ wasn’t such a mystery after all.
“Why didn’t they let me die?” Or stay dead, as the case may have been.
She shrugs, not looking directly at him. “Too cliché?”
It isn’t funny.
“You’d probably just have come back on your own anyway. Now that would be cliché.”
She sits on the floor beside his cot, skirts tucked neatly around her knees. Her stomach is flat and her hair is tied back messily. She looks tired.
He reaches out like he wants to touch her, though he isn’t quite sure why.
“I had a hard time believing it, you know,” he says, instead.
“Oh, you know. The whole virgin birth thing.”
Vala laughs. “Well, I never claimed to be a virgin.”
“Immaculate conception, then.” He pauses. “I take it you’ve had the child already?”
“Obviously. I thought you were meant to be smart.” Then, after a moment, “Would you like to see her?”
She doesn’t wait for an answer. She leaves the room in a rustle of skirts, and is back within a matter of seconds with a baby in her arms.
“They keep you and the baby in the prison?”
“This isn’t a prison, Daniel. It’s a shrine.”
Same difference with these people, he thinks but bites back the response. Vala has lived among these people, even married one of them. He can’t shake the feeling it would be disrespectful.
Then again, he ought have remembered that this is Vala.
She plops down onto his bed, shoving the baby into his arms despite the fact that he’s still weak and bruised and it still hurts when he breathes.
“Big baby.” She leans in close to the child. “Not you, darling. You’re perfect.”
The child is fairly large, though, squirming in his arms and looking up at him with wide, dark eyes.
“Your husband-“ He hands the baby back, but she reaches out and tangles her sticky fingers in his hair.
“Is dead. He was killed in the battle for this planet.”
“So am I. It was a damned waste.” Vala says it lightly, but she won’t meet his eyes and she clutches the baby so tightly she squeaks in distress. The child’s face turns pink and she starts to fuss.
Vala calls the girl ‘carinna’, which she says is somewhat untranslatable, but a form of endearment nonetheless. The Priors won’t allow the child a formal name. Not yet, they say. When the time comes, the name will choose her.
As prisons go, the shrine is actually fairly pleasant – and he’s certainly been in enough prisons to make some pretty informed comparisons. The Priors don’t speak to Daniel, and they barely speak to Vala. They address the child with reverence, though, only speaking to Vala when necessary. They are unfailingly polite, though, when they do speak.
“Mistress,” one says, “we have need of the child.”
It’s early morning and Daniel is still somewhat unsteady on his feet. Vala lets the Prior take the baby and takes Daniel by the arm instead.
“You’re just going to let them run off with your baby?”
“You say that,” she steers him out the open door and toward the garden, “as though we have some other choice.”
The garden is lovely, hushed in the morning sun. The path they walk down is lined with slender silver flowers; there’s a shallow reflecting pool beyond. The shrine is at the center of a fledgling city, one that’s growing nearly as quickly as Vala’s daughter. At least, that’s what Daniel is told. He hasn’t been allowed beyond the garden, though Vala ventures out occasionally.
“They’ve never threatened us, never told us we’re prisoners...”
“Oh, we’re prisoners…” she says. She slides her hand down his arm and laces her fingers through his. He’s a little off-balance, but he manages to keep up. “I’ve been a prisoner since the moment I woke up in their galaxy. This was all planned, right from the beginning.”
She’s looking straight ahead, a quiet smile on her lips, as though they’re discussing the weather or what type of tea she’ll make when they finish their walk.
She leaves Daniel sitting by the reflecting pool, telling him the air will be good for him. When he protests that they ought to be using this time to plot their escape, she pats him, a bit harder than strictly necessary, on one bruised shoulder. When he winces, she just raises an eyebrow at him as though her point has been made.
He sits by himself until the sun is high and he realizes that he’s not entirely alone.
“You are wondering,” one of the Priors says from behind him, “why we let you live.”
“Well, yeah.” He throws a pebble into the pool. “But you don’t exactly have to be a higher being to figure that one out.”
“The Ori value you, Daniel Jackson,” the Prior tells him. “They think that you are the most likely of all of your kind to see reason.”
Of course. After all, he’d already ascended once.
“And,” the Prior continues, “it is the child’s will that you continue here -- and she is an extension of the will of the Ori themselves.”
Vala brings him tea, then, hanging back a little until the Prior has finished speaking. Once the Prior takes his leave, she kneels beside Daniel and pours his tea for him. Seeing her so deferent, so unlike herself, shakes him more than anything else so far. It brings home to him how very far away they are, and how alone.
He puts a hand under her chin and tips her face up. “Don’t. I’ll do it myself.”
She smiles, a little wickedly, looking exactly like the Vala he knows, and the pressure in his chest eases a little.
He gets better, slowly but surely. His strength returns and he starts, once again, to think about escape. He lies in his small room (it really is a prison), staring at the ceiling and calculating how many light years it is to the nearest stargate.
He’s been on Sahal a little over a month (the days counted in cups of tea, scratches on the wall and the number of steps Vala’s daughter has learned to take on her own), when Vala begins to bring him books. Some of them are his own, salvaged from the wreck of the Odyssey, but others are not. They’re texts from various nearby planets.
“What is this?”
“They want you to make yourself useful,” she says. “They want to ‘understand’ us.”
“Well, that’s new.”
“Maybe I should be clearer… They want to understand so they can convert people more successfully.”
“That’s a step up from wanton religious genocide, I guess.”
“Yes. Sort of, anyway.” She sits on the table next to one open book, swinging her legs to and fro, smiling down at the top of his head, and for a moment they might as well be back on Earth.
Except, of course, for the child. She clambers into Daniel’s lap, nearly upsetting a bottle of ink, and leans her head against his arm so he can’t turn the pages.
Vala grins even wider. “You are a charmer. I always knew I had good taste.”
After awhile, they begin to share a bed: all three of them crowded onto Daniel’s tiny cot. It’s uncomfortable and too warm and perfectly chaste. Even Vala doesn’t make an off-color remark… at least not in front of the child.
He wakes up the morning after that first night with Vala’s head heavy on his shoulder and the little girl’s knee sharp against his stomach.
“Maybe we should sleep in your room?” he suggests.
“Oh, I don’t think you’d like it,” Vala says, smiling drowsily at them both. “There’s an awful lot of incense and chanting and pilgrims prostrating themselves. It’s much more peaceful down here.”
More than once he dreams about Abydos.
He thinks it’s because of the primitive conditions, the cramped quarters, the scent of a woman and the softness of her sleeping form pressed up against him in the night.
Vala still makes him crazy on occasion, but he never tells her to go. She’s also more subdued than he’s ever known her, as though this life has already taken a little bit of who she used to be. He’d never have believed it, but he misses her exasperating insolence, her raw avarice, her shameless self-confidence. There are still flashes of that woman in who she has become, but they’re less and less frequent the longer they stay on Sahal.
Something has to be done.
It’s harder than it looks. This small, quiet life they’re leading is like a dose of sleeping pills; it makes him slow and pliant and stupid.
His break comes when the Priors begin to let him accompany Vala out of the shrine and into the city. The first few times one of the Priors escorts them, but after it becomes apparent that he isn’t going to attempt a suicidal run for the city gates, they’re left alone together.
They’re out on parole for good behavior.
“Where would we go, anyway?” Vala says when he points this out.
He’s not sure yet, but he’ll think of something.
The city is being built on the bones of an earlier civilization. The newcomers are incorporating the ruins and remnants of the old city into their new buildings and boulevards. Most of the buildings have military or religious significance.
Outside the city, though, is where the ships are housed.
He watches the small cruisers take off and land, moving back and forth between the shipyard and the larger ships in orbit around the planet. He’s not sure what the range of the cruisers is, but he vows to find out somehow. The closest stargate he knows of is on P9X-771. He thinks a cruiser would make it, but he won’t take the chance until he’s sure.
There’s one tavern in the city, unusual for a town almost entirely populated by soldiers. Daniel takes Vala there one afternoon and buys her a glass of ale and something sweet for dessert, trading his platinum watch to the owner for a line of credit.
“You’re spoiling me,” she says happily. Then, after a beat, she narrows her eyes. “You’re up to something.”
“What makes you say that?”
“You’re being far too nice to me.”
There’s a man in the tavern who’s looking at Daniel with something like recognition.
“All right. Maybe I am up to something.” He pats her absently on the shoulder. “Stay here.”
“Have we met?” he asks, sliding into a chair across from the man who’d been watching them.
“You’re Jackson. The Priors have spoken of you in the square. They’ve also spoken of the lady and the child. They say the child is the will of the Ori.” He pauses. “You’re also the one Harrid spoke of.”
Technically, Daniel spoke of himself through Harrid, but he’s not exactly in a position to quibble.
“You know Harrid?”
“Yes, and I’m taking my life into my hands just speaking his name.”
“What? Like I’m going to tell the Priors?”
The man gives him a look. “They kept you alive. There must have been a reason.”
“Well, it isn’t because I converted, if that’s what you’re worried about.” He pauses. “Tell me about Harrid and Sallis. We wondered what happened to them. We were afraid they’d been executed because of us.”
“Actually, the Priors kept them in prison for nearly a year before finally burning them on the Ara.”
Vala hadn’t mentioned that. Perhaps she hadn’t known.
“They spoke of visions of your world that came to them in dreams. Stories of these visions spread throughout the planet. They actually acquired quite a few followers – myself included. The Priors gave them the chance to renounce their heresy, since they were ‘possessed’ at the time. The Priors said they were showing mercy.” He shakes his head, disgusted. “The Priors know nothing of mercy. Harrid and Sallis refused to recant.”
“Are we talking about a lot of followers here?”
“Enough. There are quite a few of us here on Sahal. They pretty much conscripted everyone for this fight – even those of us who are less than devout.”
“Can you help us?” Daniel asks, feeling hopeful of escape for the first time in weeks.
That night, he brings Vala home and they sit with the child in the garden watching the sun set. After dark, the flowers open wider and iridescent bugs float from plant to plant. The little girl is fascinated, and she watches them with wide eyes from between Daniel’s knees. It’s fully dark when she finally nods off, her head falling heavily against his left thigh.
She’s a tangle of heavy limbs in his arms when he carries her inside. She’s gotten taller just in the past week alone. He puts her down on the bed and she mumbles sleepily, her eyes fluttering open. She reaches out, calling him something in a language Daniel doesn’t know and Vala goes white to the lips.
“What is it?”
“Nothing. It’s nothing.”
Neither of them sleep there again.
They go back to Camelot after their searches on Castiana and Vagonbrei turn up nothing. Well, Vagonbrei turned up fire-breathing dragons, and lots of them, but not the Holy Grail or anything else that might help them fight the Ori.
It’s midsummer on both Earth and Camelot, a coincidence Mitchell probably wouldn’t have noticed if Jackson hadn’t pointed it out.
“In medieval England, there were bonfire festivals on Midsummer’s Eve…” Jackson is babbling vaguely, but Mitchell isn’t in much of a mood to shut him up.
“I wonder if they observe it similarly here-“ Jackson trails off.
It’s near sunset and the hills above the village are on fire.
“Wicked,” says Lieutenant O’Malley, from behind them, stopping to admire the view. “Looks like Kegger Flats after a football game back home.”
“I doubt it’s quite the same thing,” Jackson says, and Sam shakes her head at him.
It’s exactly the same thing.
Mitchell has to stifle a laugh when they reach the foot of the first hill. He can hear loud music and drunken laughter, and the scent of stale beer and smoke is on the air.
“I’m with O’Malley on this one, Jackson. This is a kegger.”
Teal’c gives them all an inscrutable look, like he wants to ask what a ‘kegger’ is but thinks it’s something he ought to know after all this time.
“Don’t worry, Teal’c.” Mitchell slaps him on one broad shoulder. “When we get back, I’ll take you to a Vols game and show you how a real kegger is done.”
“I would appreciate that, Colonel Mitchell,” he says seriously, but there’s the hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “However, I am more a follower of the Oregon team myself.”
“Any particular reason?”
He considers moment, then says, “I find their uniforms especially pleasing.”
“Well, we’ll just have to hit both Knoxville and Eugene come September, then.”
“Why don’t you guys just go to a game at the Academy?” Sam pipes up.
“Maybe because we want to go see a team that will actually win?”
She smacks in him in the back of the head.
“Ow!” he says, even though it doesn’t hurt in the slightest.
They reach the top of the hill. It’s like a tailgate party, Jimmy Buffet concert and the Capital Mall on the 4th of July all rolled into one. The music is loud and the ale clearly flowing freely. The bonfires are bright and high, and the young people of the village are dancing around them.
Valencia has a wreath of yellow flowers in her close-cropped hair, and her cheeks flush when she sees them. She stops dancing and comes over.
“Colonel Mitchell.” She presses her wreath into his hands. “I thought you might come back soon.”
Somehow she seems a little older than he remembered.
“But this is wonderful!” the governor, Meurik, says, coming over to greet them as well. “Have you found the Sangraal?“
“Not exactly,” Daniel says, then amends, “What we mean is, we know where it probably is. It’s just that actually getting it may be a little difficult.”
Difficult is an understatement. The only planet left to search is Sahal, and it’s currently crawling with about 100 million soldiers of the Ori. Not to mention that there’s every possibility the Ori already found the thing and ordered their followers to destroy it.
“We have faith that you will not fail, Dr. Jackson.” Meurik spreads his hands wide. “But there will be time tomorrow for these discussions. Please, join us.”
Mitchell’s about to say something cliché about being “on duty,” but before he can, Jackson’s accepted a mug of ale and the roasted leg of some sort of large fowl.
What the hell, then. When in Rome.
SG-3 finishes their ale in one go and goes back for seconds, toasting each other enthusiastically, probably glad for the break. Mitchell’s own command is a little more subdued. Sam and Jackson find a spot by the fire, talking about something serious and probably way the hell over Mitchell’s head. Teal’c declines the offer of a drink and watches the proceedings stoically.
“Go ahead and have a beer, Teal’c.”
“Thank you, Colonel, but no. Someone must remain alert.”
Valencia is at his elbow then, offering him his own mug and a seat beside her a little way from the fire. She keeps looking sidelong at him, like there’s a question she wants to ask.
“So, how’ve you been?” he says instead.
“We are fine. Crops are planted, people are healthy… The people are waiting, you know, for you to bring word of Arthur.”
“Are they?” They were probably going to have a fairly long wait on that score. “That’s not what I meant, though, kiddo. How are you?”
She shrugs, a universal noncommittal gesture. “My mother wishes me to marry Galen the blacksmith at the harvest.”
“Marry?” He bites back his initial response that she’s way too young to get married, and instead just says, “Huh.”
“Yes, exactly.” She smiles a little. “I think I would make a poor blacksmith’s wife.”
He’s inclined to agree, though not entirely sure why.
By midnight, he’s a little tipsy, and that’s how she manages to drag him off away from the others and back into the town. Before he knows it, they’re standing in what must be the town hall. She stops in front of a table displaying Arthur’s sword and puts her hands on his forearms.
“I need you,” she says, her cheeks pink again.
“Look,“ he swallows hard, “it’s not that I’m not flattered…”
But she’s still speaking as though she hasn’t heard him, “I need your help. No one else understands.”
“I need the sword. I need you to give it to me.”
“Can’t you just take it? You pulled the thing out of the stone. Shouldn’t it be yours anyway?”
“I could take it,” she says seriously. “But none of the men would recognize my right to have it. It would cause strife and uncertainty. But you and your friends – you speak for Arthur.” She pauses. “At least, the others think you do. If you give me the sword, no one will question it.”
“I think maybe you’re overestimating our pull with-“
“You opened Merlin’s library. You defeated the Black Knight…”
“Because you pulled the sword from the freakin’ stone…”
She smiles, and her eyes are older than they have any right to be. “That’s not how the men see it. I was allowed to give you the sword, by Providence.”
He shakes his head. “That really, really sucks.”
So he picks up the sword and hands it to her.
The moment she has it in her hands, she’s an entirely different creature. She’s pale and terrible and she looks at him with the light of battle in her eyes… but only for a moment. Then it’s gone and she’s just a girl again, albeit one with a really wicked sword.
“What do you plan to do with that thing anyway?” he asks.
“I’m going to defeat the Ori,” she says plainly, her face perfectly serious. “I’m going to save this world.”
And he’s damned if he doesn’t believe her.
“Well, then I guess I’ll have to help you.”
The villagers, on the other hand, take a little bit more convincing.
“She’s nothing but a girl…” they say when he lays the situation out for them.
He gives them all a long, hard look, and says, “Yeah, well, that didn’t stop Joan of Arc.”
They flee in the middle of the night.
The Priors have taken the child with them on a pilgrimage to the site on some new temple they’re planning to build. Vala is asleep in her own room. Daniel has never been inside it before, and once he is he understands why Vala kept him away. It’s a maiden’s bower, a shrine to her daughter. The walls painted with murals, the windows are stained glass. The night outside those windows is dark, and Vala has a candle burning perilously close to a hanging tapestry.
The men from the resistance have come to take them away. One moves to extinguish the candle, while the other puts his hand over Vala’s mouth to stop her from crying out when they wake her.
She hits him in the face and is on her feet before the rest of them have recovered.
Now that’s the Vala Daniel remembers.
The candle flickers, their shadows wavering on the walls.
“What is this?” she says, blinking in the candlelight.
“We’re leaving,” Daniel says. “These men are part of the underground. They’re here to help us escape.”
Realization begins to dawn on her face. “But what about…?”
“We can’t bring her.”
The men are watching them, their heads swinging back and forth as they speak. Vala is clenching and unclenching her fists.
“We can’t bring her with us,” Daniel says, “and to be honest, even if we could… I’m not sure we should.”
They don’t have time for this. They don’t have time to waste on discussion or debate.
“We have to go.”
“No.” Vala shakes her head. “She’s my daughter. I can’t leave her here.”
He wants to protest, to say that the girl isn’t her daughter, she’s an abomination, she’s a tool of their destruction, that she was never meant to be, that it would have been better for everyone if she’d never existed at all.
He doesn’t say any of those things, though. He doesn’t even really believe them.
“I’m not going to argue. I’m going, and I need you to come with me.” He steps forward, takes her by the shoulders. “We are not leaving her. We will come back.”
He’ll hit her over the head and carry her with them, if he has to. He releases her shoulders and considers how hard he can hit her without really hurting her. What he’s thinking must show in his eyes because she relents. She reaches out and takes his hand.
“I don’t want to do this,” she says. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to forgive you for this.”
But she goes with them anyway.
In some versions of the tale, Persephone eventually finds that her captivity in the Underworld is not entirely unpleasant. She discovers that she is fond of, if not in love with, Hades. She enjoys her status as queen, even if ‘hell’ (of a sort) is her domain. Her abduction by Hades allows her to become a woman in her own right, despite her mother’s attempts to make her remain perpetually a child.
When Demeter comes to fetch her, however, in almost every version of the tale Persephone is less than forthcoming about the true nature of her time in the Underworld.
There are banners flying over the field of Camboglanna when Mirit arrives. It is a beautiful place, with rolling green hills and a blue river twisting away into the distance.
The woman who speaks for the people of Camelot looks barely older than Mirit herself. Her hair is the color of copper coins and cut close to the nape of her neck. She holds a silver sword, in greeting or in challenge or possibly both, and offers Mirit a welcome… of a sort.
“Well met,” the girl says. Her name is Valencia and her hands are calloused from fighting. “I welcome you, but don’t offer you an invitation to stay. We have no wish to follow the path of Origin, and we’ve seen what happens to those who refuse you.”
“We aren’t here for war,” Mirit says, holding out a hand to the other girl. “We merely wish to talk. We wish to share with you.”
“And if we say no, then you’ll come for war.” It isn’t a question.
“Perhaps, if war comes to us first. But that’s not my intention in coming here.” She leaves her hand out, palm open, inviting the other girl to take it.
“What is your intention, then?”
“I wish to speak. I wish the chance to change your minds.”
“You won’t find that an easy task,” Valencia says, but she takes Mirit’s hand. It isn’t a friendly grasp, but it’s respectful. This girl will fight, but only as a last resort.
Mirit understands that. It’s how she would have her own people act, in a perfect world.
The world, however, is far from perfect.
They’ve gathered on this planet, soldiers of the Ori and the people of this new galaxy, to talk. The people of Camelot, with their close association with the Ancients, play host and mediator. There are representatives of the wide array of peoples of the galaxy. They are far more diverse in their dress and manner, Mirit notices, than those who follow the Ori.
There is also a delegation from Earth. Two men and a woman. The first man is tall and broad-shouldered, a military leader. The second is much the same, though without the air of command about him.
No one really notices either man, though. All eyes are fixed on the woman. She’s the Great Mother, dark and beautiful, terrible and kind. Her appearance, at the right hand of one of their enemies, causes a sensation. A collective gasp ripples through the crowd of soldiers at Mirit’s back. Only the Priors seem unaffected.
“What?” the woman says, looking around, perplexed.
“They canonized you,” the second man exclaims softly, indicating one of the embroidered banners above Mirit’s head. His voice is familiar. “You’re a saint.”
“Now that’s funny.” The first man, the leader, laughs. His voice is slow, the words slightly drawled. It’s harder for Mirit to understand him than the other two. She gets the gist, though.
She turns sharply to the Prior on her left. “This can’t be, can it? She’s an impostor sent to confuse us.”
“That is the most likely answer,” the Prior says carefully, but doesn’t meet her gaze.
They spend the night on the field as honored guests, with the clear implication that they should leave in the morning and not come back unless invited. Mirit accepts their hospitality with as much grace as she can muster, under the circumstances.
At sunset, the man Daniel asks to see her, and she is not surprised.
“We’ve met before,” she says when he’s allowed to enter her tent.
She sends the Priors away, and the tension in his shoulders eases a bit.
“Yes, that’s right. We’ve met before.” He takes the seat she offers him.
“You were very young. I’m surprised you remember at all.”
“I didn’t until I saw you today… with that woman who claims to be my mother.”
“She is your mother,” he says in that familiar voice.
“My mother is dead,” she says, then corrects herself, “My mother ascended. She’s with the Ori.”
“Is that what they told you?”
“That’s the truth.” She stands, and so does he. “You will remain seated in my presence,” she says sharply.
“Well, haven’t we turned into quite the little princess? You were nicer when you were still in diapers.”
“Is this what you’ve come to tell me?” She turns her back on him. “You think you can confuse me with deception? That if you make it seem that the Ori are false, we’ll just go away?”
“Not at all. The Ori aren’t false gods. Not technically. They are higher beings, and they are as powerful as they claim to be. There are things they’ve mislead your people about, though.”
“And I don’t deny that there are things I wish to change, that mistakes have been made. But those mistakes were in the interpretation of the Ori’s wishes. That’s why I was born. I understand their will; I am their will,” she says. “You’ll notice that I didn’t come to this planet with a fleet of ships. I brought a handful of soldiers. I want to talk. I want to understand. But, most importantly, I want to make your people understand.”
“What will you do if we don’t? Will you kill us all then?”
“I don’t know.” It’s the honest answer.
He stares at her after that, for an uncomfortably long time.
“About my mother…”
“What about her?”
“You’re saying she turned against us. You’re saying she went away and left me alone…”
He stands, and this time she doesn’t command him to sit.
“She didn’t want to.” His eyes are very serious behind his glasses. “I took her.”
“I don’t believe you.”
He shrugs. “That’s your choice, then, I guess.”
He’s so familiar. She wants to taste the air around him. She wants to hold his hand. She finds herself swaying slightly toward him as he speaks.
Recovering, she rights herself and takes a step back.
“What is it?” He’s looking at her shrewdly.
He’s the missing piece in the puzzle of her childhood, of who she is, of where she came from, of her very own origin.
“If what you say is true, then why did you do it? Why did you take my mother from me?”
“Because what the Ori did to her was wrong. What they’re doing to you is wrong.”
“The Ori are perfection. They can’t be wrong.” But there’s something in her that suspects, that’s always suspected, that isn’t entirely true.
“I was like them once. I ascended… but I chose to come back. I came back for my friends, for people like your mother.” He takes her by the arms. “Mirit, in a way, I came back for you.”
She kisses him.
She isn’t sure what makes her do it. All she knows is that she’s moved by some overwhelming force, a will that maybe isn’t entirely her own. She kisses him long and hard, and he gasps into her mouth and tries to pull away.
“You’re wrong, Daniel,” she says, finally releasing him, being released herself. “The Ori move me, and move in me. Their will above everything else…”
She moves away from him.
“One way or another we will make you see.”