AN: A trickier chapter- which is one of the many reasons it took so long to write, for which I heartily apologise for-, but I felt it had to be done; we get back to the central issue once this particular mission's over, and I'm only focusing on writing what was relevant; another mission where magic will make things a bit easier, as you'll find.
"OK, so you're telling us that you fought alien bugs and forgot to call us about it?" Fred asked, looking at SG-1 with a sceptical expression, the rest of SG-M gathered around Sam's lab as they heard about their allies' latest mission.
"It's not like we had the time to pick up the phone and call," Mitchell pointed out. "We were on a show-and-tell trip that turned nasty; by the time we knew what we were up against, we were in too deep to call you for back-up."
"Still sucks," George said, sighing over-dramatically as he looked at their friends. "Still, that would
have been cool…"
"It wasn't," Sam said grimly. "Trust me, George; when you see those things in action, all you want to do is get away."
"Uh… sure," George said, looking awkwardly at the female lieutenant colonel, the intensity of her stare forestalling any thoughts he might have had of continuing to joke about the subject. "So… what's the next plan?"
"I got it!" Daniel said, hurrying into the room with a broad grin on his face and a book in his
hand, cutting off whatever response the rest of his teammates and Hogwarts allies might have made to that query. "I made the connection! Sir Gawain to Gwalchmei. Culwhch and Olwen. Verus Gen Bree."
"Uh… Harry?" Lupin asked, looking uncertainly at his best friend's son. "Are you all right?"
"Oh, sorry," Daniel said, smiling awkwardly at the others before he put the book down. "It's Vagonbrei. One of the planets Arthur and his knights went to in their quest for the Holy Grail. I got the gate address."
"In other words… we have a clue to that 'Sangraal' thing?" Tonks asked, looking hopefully at the archaeologist.
"Hopefully," Daniel said with a smile.
Sam couldn't blame him for the smile; even if Voldemort was the more personal adversary they were dealing with at the moment, she knew that Daniel still harboured some guilt about his role in the Ori's discovery of their existence.
They weren't having any luck finding Voldemort or the Death Eaters at the moment, but if they could deal with the Ori, or at least come close
to finding some clue…
Well, that would be another load of guilt off the shoulders of the man who never deserved to have such a burden forced upon him.
A few minutes later, SG-1 and SG-M were sitting around the briefing room table, General Landry at the head of the dual team briefing as Daniel pulled out a file before taking his seat.
"OK," he said, looking at the rest of the group. "While on PX1-767, we got the names of three planets: Castiana, Sahal, and Vagonbrei. Three possible destinations for Arthur and his knights in their quest for the Holy Grail, what we know to be Merlin's weapon."
"Turning a needle in a haystack search into a more restricted search pattern," Hermione added with a smile.
"Right," Daniel said, nodding at her. "Unfortunately, what we didn't get were any corresponding gate addresses, and the process of going through that library page by page looking for clues could have potentially taken years. So, I knew we were going to have to narrow the search parameters a little. That's when it hit me: Sir Gawain."
"Wasn't he one of the Knights Who Say 'Ni'?" Mitchell asked, as Hermione opened Daniel's book to reveal an illustration that Daniel had earlier identified for her.
"He was a Knight of the Round Table," Daniel explained, as he took the book and moved it into the middle of the table, showing them various illustrations. "In one of his earliest incarnations, an old Welsh tale, he went on a quest to help rescue a lost love. The legend says that Sir Gawain, AKA Gwalchmei, visited several lands over the course of his adventure, including a place called Gwlad Gan Brenhinol Gwir
, which is Welsh for 'Land of Royal Truth'. Translate that into Ancient, and you get 'Verus Gen Bree'- Vagonbrei."
"So… how does that get us a gate address?" Sam asked, looking uncertainly at Daniel.
"Uh, it doesn't," Daniel explained, pulling out another book. "But it did give me something very specific to look for in Merlin's library, namely references to Gawain. Now, based on this information, I started scanning through the titles, and I found this. Now, the entire volume is dedicated to Gawain's adventures and includes several very interesting illustrations, including a depiction of a sword he once carried. Note the symbols engraved on the blade."
As Landry took the book from Daniel, he traced his finger down the illustration of the blade for a few moments, easily interpreting the black symbols beside the sword.
"A gate address," he said, excitement clear in his voice as he looked up at the archaeologist.
"Vagonbrei?" Tonks asked.
"Well, we won't know until we check it out," Daniel said.
"Very well done, Doctor," Landry said, nodding in approval of the archaeologist's discovery.
"We're going with them, huh?" Tonks asked.
"Considering what emerged the last time we went on a mission involving Merlin, it would probably be for the best if we dispatched a joint magic and conventional team on this one," Landry explained. "You'll both be heading for the planet as soon as possible; with Voldemort and the Ori on our backs, the sooner we can take action to eliminate one
of them, the better."
Having arrived at their destination, Daniel had to admit that, so far, he wasn't feeling entirely comfortable about their chances of finding something useful, regardless of the fact that the village archives where he was currently carrying out his research appeared to have been left intact by whatever had happened. The abandoned village and the darkened environment had been foreboding enough on its own, but the persistently overcast fog did little to improve his mood, even before the team had discovered the bodies in one of the houses.
If he hadn't had Hermione and Lupin check the bodies themselves, he would have suspected magical involvement; considering his faith, with magic ruled out and modern medicine having failed to uncover anything useful as of yet, there was no other obvious explanation for what had killed those people, and this whole place did little to improve his mood, considering the bleak atmosphere of a village through of skeletons that just seemed to have lain down and died for no apparent reason.
"Did the village records give an indication as to what befell these people?" Teal'c asked, walking over to sit down beside him.
"No," Daniel said, shaking his head as he studied the texts before him. "However, it does make mention to some of the ancient lore tied to the area. See, according to legend, a cave overlooking the village was once home to Morgan Le Fay."
Looking over at Teal'c, Daniel restrained his initial incredulity at Teal'c's ignorance of that name- it wasn't like Teal'c would have had any reason to look up Arthurian mythology before now-, and hastened to provide his friend with an explanation. "Ah, in Arthurian myth, Morgan was a powerful sorceress, King Arthur's half-sister and an adversary of Merlin."
"That would suggest that she is involved in the disappearance of the weapon we seek," Teal'c noted.
"Now," Daniel continued, talking half to Teal'c and half to himself, "Morgan, like Merlin, was a purported magic user, so it makes sense that again, like Merlin, she was once ascended."
"One who foresaw the dangers presented to her and her kind by a weapon capable of destroying ascended beings," Teal'c noted.
"And the reason that we don't assume she was just a regular witch is…?" Tonks asked, looking curiously at her friends.
"Witches in that time were already using the memory charm," Hermione explained, looking over at Mitchell and Sam as she continued her explanation. "We've always assumed that Merlin and Morgana were trying to improve magic's reputation with the general population by allowing their powers to be publically known- well, Merlin was doing it for those reasons; considering what Morgana was meant to be doing, we assumed that she just wanted to be feared-, but the concept of them as former Ascended beings makes more sense; they wouldn't need to worry about secrecy because they weren't part of the magical world and therefore weren't giving us
"Ah," Mitchell said in understanding.
"So," Daniel continued, "she took the weapon from Merlin and went into hiding..."
"On three possible worlds," Teal'c finished for the archaeologist. "Of which this is but one."
"We've got to find that cave," Daniel said, his expression grave as he studied the texts before him.
Given the lack of textual information about the cave he'd come here to find in the first place, it looked like they were going to need to resort to more direct search methods rather than research…
Staring at the new wave of papers he'd pulled from the planet's archives, Daniel groaned in frustration.
Even with Hermione to suggest a few other methods of cross-referencing- he'd built up his own system of searching for records over the years he'd studied on Earth and carried out research away from Hogwarts, but another perspective wasn't exactly a bad thing-, this archive was proving to be frustratingly difficult to search; starting with the fact that he wasn't sure there was anything useful here, this was all becoming pointlessly difficult…
"Med team's wrapping it up," Mitchell said as he walked into the room, walking up to the table covered in books that Daniel had brought together. "Figured we'd do the same; SG-M hasn't found anything particularly noteworthy either."
"This can't be a dead end," Daniel said, taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose in frustration. "There has to be something here…"
"Take it up with Landry," Mitchell said, briefly opening a book near him and glancing at its contents. "You can come back tomorrow, knock yourself out, strain your eyes all you want."
"You're right," Daniel said, sighing in resignation as he gathered up his notes and looked around the room. "I could probably get a fresh start in the morning."
"All right," Mitchell said, as he and Daniel joined the rest of the teams in the street, "Jackson's done; let's go home."
"Hang on a minute," one of the other soldiers said. "Where's Ackerman?"
Daniel suddenly had a very bad feeling about this latest unexplained absence; when they were in a village that had been mysteriously abandoned by everyone, the possible explanations for a missing teammate were not encouraging…
The discovery that Ackerman has fallen asleep in a nearby cabin might not have been a particular point of concern at first- it was unprofessional, but it wasn't like they hadn't had a long day and encountered little else to keep them occupied while working-, but when taken into account along with the lack of animal activity in their area and their inability to wake him up after finding him, it didn't take long to realise that something unnatural had happened to him.
"And we're sure
he's asleep no matter what?" Mitchell asked, looking at his team in frustration before his gaze focused on the brightest witch present. "Don't you have spells that can-?"
"I already tried ennervate
, but it's no good; whatever this is, it's as powerful as the Draught of Living Death with no immediate sign of an antidote," Hermione said, looking grimly at the sleeping doctor. "I can probably keep us awake with some charms, but whatever knocked him out is apparently powerful enough to ensure that he stays out until…"
"Until he ends up like everyone else here?" Fred asked, indicating the village around them with a slightly panicked edge to his tone. "We're stuck on this dump until we can find out whatever's causing this mess, facing death by staying asleep for too long, and you're telling us we're all infected with… whatever this is… so we can't even go home?"
"We have quarantine procedures for a reason-" Sam said.
it," Hermione said, sighing slightly in frustration as she looked at the blonde woman. "It doesn't mean we like
it, but we get it."
"What exactly is wrong with us anyway?" Lupin asked.
"Well, like Ackerman, all of our bloodwork shows an elevated white cell count and a marked increase in seratonin levels; we just don't know precisely what that means in this case," the attached doctor said apologetically.
"So no way of identifying the pathogen itself," Daniel said with a sigh. "Great
"OK, so we have to stay awake; get a few of those pepper-up potions sent through, and how hard can that be?" Mitchell asked with a hopeful smile.
"Harder than you'd think," Hermione said grimly. "Those things might keep us awake, but I wouldn't like to predict what our psychological state will be like if we have to use them for too long; keeping us awake isn't the same as taking away our need
"Eh?" Fred said, looking at Hermione in confusion.
"We need to sleep to give our minds a chance to subconsciously process various conflicts during the day- whether through dreams or just with the opportunity to turn off-; actually taking away our need to sleep completely could result in our magic manifesting in various unusual and uncontrollable ways that… well, they could be dangerous," Hermione said, before looking at the twins with a more pointed stare. "Honestly, you do all that work on your products, and you don't pay attention to the consequences of sleep deprivation?"
"Hey, you know we tend to focus more on giving people a chance to take a break; why would we need
to know stuff like that?" George pointed out. "We give customers a chance to
sleep- maybe get in some extra revision done if they're really
desperate-, but where's the point in us making something to keep people awake when there's other options available on the market already?"
"Fair point," Hermione said, before she sighed and turned back to look at Daniel. "Come on, Harry; we need to focus if we're going to solve this."
Daniel didn't need his full wits about them to know that his old friend was right; if they couldn't find anything before they fell asleep, this whole trip would have been pointless…
As research continued, Daniel wondered what was worse; the seemingly harmless nature of the 'disease', or the fact that the means of escaping it was so easy and yet so hard to achieve. Without access to more detailed medical resources than what they had already, the team were downing Pepper-Up potions and coffee along with various other wake-up drugs, but there was still only so much that they could accomplish working like this.God
… he hadn't been this exhausted since he was trying to prepare for the second task in his fourth year; he'd been focused on his studies in college, trying to build up his real knowledge as opposed to the knowledge he'd received in the download before he left Britain, but he'd always been able to fall asleep even if he hadn't always realised how tired he was until he fell asleep over his books. Sam and Hermione had speculated that the infection made them more fatigued than they would have been under normal circumstances, noting that they had stayed awake this long in the past with less effects, but all Daniel cared about right now was staying awake; the infection was only important to the extent that it made it harder for them to do so.
Despite their best efforts, they were no further along in finding a clue about how to cure this contagion, or even anything that would make this trip worthwhile for their larger mission; he'd spotted a couple of promising references to other locations, but nothing that he
could use right here and now.
With magic eliminated as a cause for the sickness, they had managed to determine that Ackerman's brain was producing a large amount of melatonin to keep him asleep, but that didn't explain why it was doing that. The discovery of a reference in the town records to the belief that Morgan Le Fay had cursed the village at least gave them somewhere else to check, but while Mitchell, Teal'c, Lupin and Tonks's investigation had confirmed the presence of some kind of parasite in the soil that seemed to be the cause of the sleeping sickness, they were still fighting to stay awake, and Sam was out there searching for a missing man- he couldn't even remember the guy's name- with Fred and George, Doctor Reimer carrying out an autopsy on the recently-deceased Ackerman, while he fought to keep his eyes open as he and Hermione continued their research…
"Anything?" he asked, looking up as Doctor Reimer walked into the library; this book wasn't getting him anywhere anyway…
"There appeared to be a larger version of the parasite that the others found earlier, located in the pineal gland," Reimer said. "It caused a ruptured aneurysm as it grew, and…"
"And that killed him?" Hermione finished, before looking grimly at Daniel. "Well, that's
not going to be pleasant…"
going to happen," Daniel said firmly. "We can do this; just keep reading, and we'll find something
"Anything you can find might help," Reimer said, looking grimly at the two researchers. "So far all I've managed to find is that this parasite feeds on the melatonin that makes us want to sleep until it triggers the aneurysm, but that doesn't help us work out how to stop it…"
"And there's no point asking us about that," Hermione said with a sigh. "Most of our medical spells and potions focused on treating more obvious illnesses, so we don't really know much about how the body works on the cellular level; there comes a point where magic can't affect anything too
"How's Sam?" Daniel asked, looking back at the doctor, trying to make his mind focus on something else.
"Grabbing a drink of those Pepper… things of yours," the doctor said. "We used up our immediate supplies to keep us focused enough not to damage anything…"
"Good," Daniel said, not trusting himself to say anything more; things with Sam would always be complicated, but as long as she was safe, he could live with that…
God, why was he thinking about that now
"We've got it!" Mitchell's voice suddenly broke into Daniel's thoughts, the archaeologist looking up to see the lieutenant colonel standing in the door with Teal'c, Lupin and Tonks, grinning broadly.
"Got what?" Hermione asked, only able to display a shockingly limited amount of interest compared to what she usually expressed.
"This!" Mitchell said, holding up a strange lizard creature in a cage that looked like it had been conjured by one of the wizards.
"What?" Hermione said, looking at the lizard in confusion for a moment before her eyes widened as she saw it moving around. "Wait a minute; if that thing's from this planet and it's still awake
"Exactly," Mitchell said with a relieved smile. "If it's awake, we might be able to use the thing to reverse an antidote; we get that cracked, we can head off home and sleep until Tuesday. Would've been quicker, but there's been a lot to get through; those caves are a real pain to search, you know…"
"And there's the fact that we had to resort to far more than the recommended amount of wakening charms to keep ourselves awake," Tonks added, jerking her head at Teal'c. "I'm just glad that he isn't human; he might not have been completely perky, but he was a lot better than some of us."
"So… we're safe?" Daniel asked, looking around at his friends with the first sense of hope he'd felt since they'd identified this parasite.
"Give us a med-team or two with the right resources, and we will be," Reimer confirmed, looking at the lizard with a hopeful smile despite his previously exhausted appearance.
They weren't out of the woods just yet, but if all went well- and there was no reason to think otherwise-, they were only a few short steps away from being back in the game…
AN 2: As I said, next up, we get back to the key element of this plot, as a certain foe returns once more…