It was cool and quiet when Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard stepped outside the inn, P-90 in hand, looking around town.
“Guess they sleep during the day,” he commented to Teyla, who stood at his side. She took a less hostile and more pragmatic look at their surroundings, nodding her head in agreement.
“It would appear that this culture is based on their ability to conduct social functions,” she replied after a moment. “Other civilizations like this should only be so lucky.”
“I like people who can party just like any other guy,” John murmured in assent. “It just doesn’t seem to fit in this world.”
“I find it a welcome change,” Teyla told him with a smug look.
“I don’t mind it,” Ronon said, appearing out of nowhere. He had the look of a man that was well-fed and had slept for a good, sound night. He wasn’t armed, which was a first since he’d come through the Gate. His arms swung loosely at his sides.
He was followed by Rodney, who was chewing and swallowing as he walked, Ancient device in one hand and his other hand gesticulating wildly. As soon as he stepped beyond the threshold, his face took on an expression of abject horror. “Has anyone noticed how cold it is?”
“I haven’t,” Ronon said, smirking at Rodney as he stepped out into the weak morning light. The sun was just peering at them from the mountains. Mist surrounded the inn, making it hard to see above the highest canopies of the village. It was peaceful, and it was beautiful. It was the first planet that he had found some level of comfort for quite some time – since he had arrived in Atlantis anyway.
Rodney swallowed the last of his breakfast and frowned, eyeing the Ancient device. “I’m not picking up any technology.”
“It would appear to be an agrarian society, Rodney,” Teyla reminded him in her soft voice. It was a voice of well-practiced patience.
There was a shuffle of footsteps approaching them. Ronon had his weapon in hand and aimed before the others had a chance to react. Maris took one look at Ronon’s weapon and sighed. “I mean you no harm.”
“Neither do we.” John’s eyes turned to Ronon and the taller man grunted a response as he lowered his hostile stance. “I made contact with the leader of our expedition last night, Doctor Elizabeth Weir. She should be through the Gate within a few hours to begin negotiations.”
“Very well,” Maris replied, with apprehensive eyes on Ronon. The man was solid, his face unreadable. “I have arranged a meeting with the healer. She will see you before your expedition leader arrives.”
As the others followed, Teyla engaged Maris in conversation.
“She has been in the village for nearly three full years,” Maris told her after Teyla asked how long the healer had been practicing. “She has been practicing for nearly as long.”
“Does she heal all ailments or is her practice more for those injured by the Wraith?”
Teyla was good, John decided as he continued on a few steps behind them. Maris was leading them through a maze of buildings. When they finally came out onto a wider street, it was covered on both sides with tents and awnings. A market, John decided, eyeing the empty tents. There were clothes and trinkets and bowls and food and who knew what else there.
At the end of the market was a thatched hovel, set at the edge of the woods. It wasn’t large, nor was it entirely small. Still, it didn’t look like any hospital any of them had ever seen, even Teyla and Ronon, who were from the Pegasus galaxy.
“Here goes nothing,” Sheppard muttered under his breath as Maris stopped and knocked on the door. Pushing it open, she gestured for the others to follow.
The hovel was one large room with four wooden cots against the back and a long table, several shelves and stacks of books lining the wall to their right. To their left was a single bench with pillows and blankets stacked on top of it.
“I’ll be with you in a moment!” a voice called to them. A single figure moved from one end of the hovel to the other. There was a single patient; an elderly man was sleeping on one of the cots. The woman was darting to the cot next to his, stripping it of linens.
“We shall wait for you,” Maris told her. The woman sat down on the bench, looking entirely comfortable. The others exchanged a look before Teyla stepped off to look at the items on the shelves and table. Ronon tucked back outside to take a look around and Rodney had his handheld device out again.
“Do you really think you’re actually going to find anything here?” he asked Rodney skeptically.
“Of course not,” Rodney replied, looking around the hovel. “It’s just… I need something to do.” Grimacing, he looked back at the device and continued walking around, leaving John standing near Maris. He looked over to Teyla, who was examining the little baskets and bowls on the table curiously. The woman spotted her and quickly walked over.
“Please, don’t touch those,” she said. Teyla withdrew her hand with an apologetic expression. “It’s just… they’re very sensitive.”
“I understand,” Teyla replied quietly. “You must be the doctor we have heard about.”
The woman winced. “Please, I’m not a doctor. I have no advanced degree or any formal education.” Turning, she saw Maris and her expression softened. “Maris.”
“Tara.” She turned to Colonel Sheppard and gestured him forward. “These are the visitors that came through the Ancestral Ring.”
“I’m Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard,” John introduced himself pleasantly, weapon held loosely at his side. “That man there is Doctor Rodney McKay and this—“
“I am Teyla Emmagan,” Teyla said, taking the care to introduce herself. “I am from Athos.”
“This is Tara, the healer of the Sadayna,” Maris said, gesturing to the woman. Tara was a woman who both blended in with the village and, yet, stood apart from it. She was curvy, with a long dress that seemed to fit her persona, which was almost kind and gentle. Her hair was long and light, worn loosely off of her shoulders and her eyes were a piercing blue.
“Welcome,” she said quietly, a small smile softening her features further. Her eyes met John’s momentarily before she glanced at Teyla and Rodney. “How can I assist you?”
“They have heard of your potion,” Maris advised her. “The one you created after the last Wraith culling.”
“Has your world been culled by the Wraith?” Tara asked them.
“Not exactly,” John replied. “But we know of many worlds that have been culled.”
“There was a drug created by the Hoffans,” Teyla explained. “This drug would not allow a Wraith to feed.”
Tara looked curious to know more, but Teyla had fallen silent.
“That’s not what your drug is for, is it?” Rodney asked.
Tara looked at him a moment before shaking her head. “This is not.” She looked back at the table, scattered with a mess of baskets, bowls and books. “The only way to use such a drug as the one the Hoffans used would be to mix the bond that allows a Wraith to feed with an individual’s blood. Such a process would be nearly impossible.”
Rodney blinked for a moment and John looked down at his boots. The healer was a lot smarter than they gave her credit for.
Just then, his radio activated. He tapped on his earpiece. “Sheppard here.”
“We have heard of the drug from the world you know as Hoff,” Maris explained to Teyla and Rodney. “We also were aware of its debilitating effect on the Hoffan people.”
“I hate to interrupt this little meeting,” John said, deactivating his radio, “but the leader of our expedition has arrived, Doctor Elizabeth Weir. She will be handling negotiations for a trade between our peoples.” He turned to Tara. “Part of what we will ask for is this medicine you’ve made.”
“You don’t know what it does,” Tara said, leaning back against her table.
“We were hoping you would explain it,” Teyla replied.
“It would be easier to show you,” Tara replied after a moment.
There was the sound of an aircraft overhead, the atmospheric thrusters breaching the sound barrier, the sound signifying that a puddle jumper was landing. “Our people are here. We’ll have to wait on that demonstration.”
“I look forward to it.”
John smiled at her, but did not receive one in return. Instead, the woman turned her back on them, busying herself at the table. John looked at Teyla, who gave him a complacent smile and stepped outside of the hut. Rodney followed behind, tucking his handheld computer into his vest.
Maris waited until the doors closed before she moved to Tara, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Are you alright?”
“I’m well,” Tara replied, looking up at her.
“What do you think?” Maris asked, keeping her voice deliberately low. She knew that the visitors were right outside the hovel.
“I think they were sincere and truly interested in what I had to offer. But I’ll reserve my judgment for later.” She gave Maris a comforting look. “Go. They are waiting for you.”
“If you are certain,” Maris said, giving her a brief, one-armed squeeze before backing out.
“I’m sure,” Tara whispered to the stillness around her. “But still, it never hurts to be positive.”=)==(=
After introductions were made, Maris led Doctor Weir, along with Colonel Sheppard’s team and a diplomatic team with a marine escort. There were ten total.
The Council’s chambers were more elaborate than the village outside. The floors and walls were made from textured marble, the columns white and elaborate. Statues stood in the conclaves and tiered chandeliers lit the passage all the way inside.
The Council’s table was a wide table, a half-circle, not unlike their own. There were seven people sitting behind it, each with a banner over their heads.
“Each councilperson is a member of a village of Sadayna,” Maris said, stopping. “The Magistrate is the Chief of Council. They are prepared to negotiate.” She turned to Doctor Weir. “There is a seat for you and for two others.”
Elizabeth didn’t hesitate. “Teyla, John, you’re with me. The rest of you…” She trailed off as she turned back to Maris.
“They may remain for the negotiations, but it is very important they do not speak.”
“You know what?” Rodney asked, breaking the tension with his voice. “We’re going to step out, me and… and…” He cocked his head over to Ronon, who was staring at the chambers as though he had never seen anything like them. He likely hadn’t. This level of technology didn’t quite match with the Sadaynan people.
“It’s alright, go,” John told him. Rodney nodded and walked out, Ronon following behind him.
“I must also ask that you disarm,” Maris advised. John looked to Elizabeth, who nodded. Once he and Teyla had passed off their gear to the marine escort, the three took their seats at a smaller table facing the half-circle.
“These are traders from a distant world that have come through the Ancestral Ring,” Maris said, stepping up to introduce the visitors. “Magistrate Veren will hear you out and the Council will determine whether or not a trade can be made.” She bowed low to the Council and then retreated from the chambers.
The Magistrate then rose to his feet. “It is good to see you again, Colonel Sheppard and Teyla Emmagan. Doctor Weir, we presume that you speak for all on your planet?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth replied. “I do.”
“Of what planet do you speak?” At their silence, the Magistrate smile. “Do not misunderstand my intentions. We do not trade with many worlds, for we, ourselves, have been misled and betrayed in the past. We wish to be seen as honest and true, as any world would see fit.”
“We only ask that you share more information of your world to us,” a Councilwoman replied, leaning forward, her golden banner rippling over her head. “We Sadaynans are a curious race, as well as cautious.”
“In that case, I would be happy to reveal more about our world to you,” Elizabeth said calmly. “We are Lanteans, from the city of Atlantis.”
There was a moment of stunned silence in the chambers. The Magistrate sat down, his face betraying nothing, but his eyes full of marvel. “You are the Ancestors?” he asked in a hushed voice.
“The Ancestors abandoned the city more than ten thousand years ago,” Elizabeth said. “We would be happy to share more about our city, but I believe now is our time to be honest. The medicine that your healer has created could have the potential to save thousands of lives on hundreds of worlds. Surely you know this.”
“We know,” the Councilwoman spoke up. “We also know the ramifications of what would happen should this medicine be discovered by the Wraith.”
“It is likely that our world would be destroyed, as well as any world that we might have traded to,” another Councilman spoke up. “We must be cautious in our dealings.”
“We understand,” Teyla spoke up. “We only wish for you to hear us out and, as the Magistrate said, we wish to be both honest and true.”
“If you are truly in the city of the Ancestors, why is it that you cannot create your own medicine to aid in these hundreds of worlds?”
Elizabeth smiled grimly. “We have worked with another world, the planet of Hoff, in order to find a medicine that would prevent the Wraith from feeding. Instead, the medicine turned against the Hoffans and a percentage of their population was killed.”
“We know of the Hoffans,” the Councilwoman stated. “Their research failed to adequately provide a true link between Wraith and human. We believe that the medicine we have is more for the human body than for preventative measures from the Wraith.”
“Could you explain that for us?” John asked after Elizabeth looked at him.
The councilwoman rose and walked forward, stepping around the side of the table. At their expressions, she stated, “I am living proof of this medicine. During the last culling, my village was nearly destroyed in the mountains. I, and six others, managed to escape, but not without the effects of the Wraith. I was near death when they found me. This drug restored not only my youth, but my life. I would not be alive today if not for the healer. And I am not alone in my story. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds out there than can give the healer gratitude for the compassion she has shown us. If you seek answers, only she can give them.”
“How long ago was the last culling?” Elizabeth asked her.
“It has been nearly an entire harvest,” the woman replied.
“That would be a good translation of at least six months,” Teyla murmured.
“If we were to consider giving you this medicine, what would you offer in return?” the Magistrate asked once the Councilwoman had taken her seat again.
“We could offer you medications,” Elizabeth replied. “We could also offer food and our assistance in fighting against the Wraith.”
“We would not be able to offer weapons,” Teyla added, “but we would be more than willing to assist you in using what you already possess.”
The council members looked at one another before the Magistrate spoke again. “I see.”
“Surely the healer does not possess the ability to cure every ailment and disease?” Teyla asked.
“The threat of the Wraith has kept her from healing all ailments, though she is skilled enough to heal a fair few.”
“We might be able to help you with that,” Elizabeth replied. “This isn’t just about what we need. It’s also about what you need.”=)==(=
It was after dark when Tara slipped inside her cottage.
“You’re home,” Maris said, looking up from the kettle she was setting on the table.
“I had a few things to finish up,” Tara replied, removing her cloak and hanging it on the hook near the door. “What have you heard of the visitors?”
“The Council is still in deliberations,” Maris replied, spooning two ladlefuls into bowls. “I would have invited them for dinner, but it seems that they have left Sadayna for the night. They will return once the Council has made their decisions.”
“I don’t think the Council will be able to turn them down,” Tara said in a tired voice as she sat, inhaling the smells of dinner in front of her.
“The Council does have a difficult decision before them. I think they will choose what is best for our people, though.”
Tara picked up her spoon, staring at it for a moment. “That’s just it, though. Will helping these people really be what’s best for ours?”
“I thought you would not pass judgment on them.” Maris sounded smug.
“I’m not,” Tara replied, dipping her spoon into the stew. She wasn’t about to pass judgment on them, but that didn’t mean they didn’t feel familiar… somehow.A/N
: Thanks to Kirablackfire for the beta.