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>>>>>>The Benev Valley...
As SG-1 followed horse and rider through the trees and up the slope of the valley-side, Sam moved forward to walk alongside O'Neill, letting only the tone of her voice indicate her concern. "Sir..?"
Keeping his voice low, O'Neill answered, "Carter, we need intel... She recognized Teal'c as a Jaffa right away, obviously knows enough to identify the serpent symbol as belonging to Apophis, and was somehow able to tell about the lack of Junior... Plus, we don't know where we are, we have basically not much in the way of supplies, because everthing was being carried on the MALP, which I noticed is not here, and, I'm not going to take it as read that it's just a coincidence that she happened to appear just after we were basically thrown out of the disappearing Stargate."
Sam turned to look back at the valley floor behind them, still reluctant to give up on her idea that the Stargate was actually there; that she'd be able to find it if she was given time to explore the theories that were bubbling at the back of her brain. She sighed in temporary defeat, determined to question their mysterious host as soon as the topic could be raised.~oOo~
Joyanne, giving no indication that she could hear everything her followers said, led the way back up to and over the ridge that hid her campsite behind the large rock outcrop. Moving to the far side of the little dell that was hidden from the valley below she dismounted, removed Tawny's saddle and gave him a rough rubdown before giving him an apple she had hidden away. Gesturing to her guests to make themselves comfortable, she moved to rekindle her fire; adding fuel from the woodpile she had created earlier.
As they removed their backpacks, Jack looked around assessing her campsite. Judging from the set-up, it was a frequently used site. It was out of sight of anyone following the track below, a little rill of water making its way through the small glade from what looked like an active spring on the hillside behind the spot, and by the slight signs of a trail through the trees; following a fold in the hillside, there was a back way out.
As he watched she added more fuel to the fire contained within a ring of stones which looked well bedded in and, hanging a pot from the collapsible metal frame, giving the contents a quick stir with a wooden spoon. She moved a kettle onto a flat stone which made up part of the surround, gesturing to them to make themselves at home. "Universal Stew and some Kaf, be ready as soon as it's hot."
Daniel couldn't wait to start asking questions, "Ms Summers, you mentioned..." He stopped as she held a hand up.
Ignoring Daniel's obvious eagerness, she looked at Sam. "It would be best to establish the appropriate protocols right away. Males associated with a female do not speak to another female unless given spoken consent by their own female." She waited expectantly.
Sam smirked at Daniel's chagrin. She gestured royally, "You may speak."
Once more Joyanne held up her hand as Daniel opened his mouth to speak. "Even though I introduced myself down below, it should be noted that I was actually speaking to Samantha Carter. It is afterall only polite for females to introduce themselves when they first meet." She now looked at Daniel. "Males will address all females over the age of 10years as Sera, unless specifically told otherwise. Males do not speak directly to female children that are under 10years unless they are part of their immediate family. You may call me Joyanne. If you start with the 'Ms Summers' you're going to end up more confused than ever once we leave here."
"Joyanne, I..." He paused, looking round at the others, waiting to see if anybody else wanted to speak. Getting no response, he continued, "Perhaps you could explain, about your name, anyway?"
"'Summers' is my Blood-Name, Joyanne my given name, the only one in the 'Summers' line. So if you want me specifically, call me by name. You'll find that many women have an individual name, but like I explained, it would be inadvisable to call them by such without permission. The response could be anything from annoyance all the way up to immediate threat of death. If you are with Samantha at the time, she could expect an immediate challenge where she would be expected to punish you, or defend your life. Perhaps it would be a good idea to keep that in mind before you mindlessly open your mouth..." Her demeanour had changed, though still looking relaxed in front of the fire; her voice a little colder. "Perhaps you could start to appreciate the seriousness of your situation. You came, uninvited, through the WorldGate in the valley below. You will not be permitted, or able, to leave until you have given a good account of yourselves, or your intended actions."
"Okay, hold up there. Daniel be quiet for a moment. Ms Summ..." Jack changed the direction of his words as she just looked at him. He could just about kick himself for still thinking of her as a young kid, even though he had experienced her speed and competence on first meeting. "Sera, we had no intention of coming here. This was not our destination when we left through the Stargate on our world, something must have happened to interfere with our journey. We have no supplies, and though I'm sure we could live off the land, we would like to continue our journey or return home as soon as possible. Can you help?"
Disappointed that they seemed unable to hear what she was actually saying, Joyanne gave the pot on the fire a slow stir, as she looked up at them all. "No. The only help I will offer is to guide you to the Temple where you can repeat your request before the appropriate authorities. I repeat, since you arrived through the WorldGate in the valley below, you will not be permitted to leave... "
At the tight look on Jack's face, Daniel tried to ease the tension by shifting the focus slightly. "WorldGate..? Is that what you call the Chappa'ai?" At her blank look, he tried again, "Stargate... Portal of the Gods?"
"I know what a Chappa'ai is Daniel Jackson, and no, the nearest Stargate, as you call it, is at Chuil'Lodair, which is quite some distance from here."
At her small smile, Sam just decided to ask. "What is a WorldGate?"
"It could be likened to a system similar to the Chappa'ai. Unfortunately, to someone with the knowledge and the power, the system leads not only to the 'Where' but to the 'When'. Unscrupulous beings could use such a system to cause untold harm, and as such, the Benev Valley", she gestured around them, "this whole region in fact, is watched closely. As soon as you came through, involuntarily as you say, I'm sure, the wards placed around it activated. A simple defence mechanism set up by the Temple to prevent any activation of the 'Gate from this side until incoming visitors have been investigated. Which will be what happens next."
"And if we don't want to be investigated?" Jack asked.
"You don't have much choice. As I said you cannot return the same way you arrived, you will not be able to find your own way to the Chappa'ai at Chuil'Lodair, and, as for living off the land as you so optimistically averred, you may be able to fish the rivers and trap for meat, but you do not have the knowledge to defend yourselves against the wild." She gestured at their surroundings again. "The Benev Valley is located between Bluewater and Graystone lands. What would you do if you encountered a hunting party from one of these Clans. Could you distinguish between a hunting party and a combat patrol... Would you know how to deal with either in the appropriate manner? How would you deal with a Crow? What would happen if you met a Ghost? How could you hope to hold off something like a Mo'ag, which is practically invisible if it wants to be... You've been here almost a candlemark, and the scent of blood has already alerted the wild to your presence. By first light tomorrow, depending on wind speed and direction, everything within fifty leagues will know that something new has appeared in the landscape. And several entities will come to investigate." Her gaze, now, was uncompromising as she looked at them all. "Are you beginning to see the big picture yet?"
Daniel looked around. "Blood... Who's injured?"
Joyanne rolled her eyes, reaching into the saddlebags beside her. Removing a small colored vial, she held it out to Sam. "Sorry Sam, but you need to take this. It's important." At her seeming caution, she took a sip herself before handing it over. "Don't worry, it just leaves a minty aftertaste."
"It's okay, Colonel." Sam smelled the opening of the vial, before taking a small sip, drinking the whole thing down as Joyanne encouraged her. "What does it do?"
"Just alters things enough this cycle to confuse predators that initially rely on scent to track their prey. Everything returns to normal for next time, unless you take some more just before you start."
Daniel made to ask a question, trying to get everybody past any embarrassment, when they were interrupted by a 'gloop' from the pot over the fire. Joyanne gave it one last stir. "I hope you have your own plates and utensils, otherwise this is going to take a long time eating."
As they dug plates from their packs, she spooned each of them a generous portion, which they tasted gingerly at first, before tucking in with compliments towards the taste.*
Replete from their meal the atmosphere was a little more relaxed, Joyanne leaning back against her saddle, her heavy jacket discarded beside her and calf-length boots crossed at her ankles, the picture of ease.
Taking a sip of the surprisingly tasteful Kaf she had encouraged them to try, Jack wasn't fooled for a moment. He had been watching her move, and though there was no evidence of any weapon, other than the lance stuck in the ground beside her, he was quite sure she had more readily available. He just couldn't spot them. He was sure that Teal'c was also assessing their hostess, but there was no opportunity yet to ask him what he thought.
"Daniel, you were wanting to ask a question...? I'm feeling in a giving mood. Why don't you go ahead."
Daniel was casual in his first question, hoping to lead on from something innocuous; assessing her in his own particular way. Jack didn't think he was really fooled either. He was coming along nicely.
"Yes... Well, earlier on you mentioned offering 50dinari for Teal'c," he smiled aside at his stoic companion, "is that what you use as your monetary system?"
"No. As someone quite famous once said, 'Confusion causes involuntary Truth' . I just used the moment to assess your reactions..." She smirked. "We use credits. Credits paid for work done, credits paid for goods bought. When you started spouting Arabic and Farsi, and... Ancient Greek, was it? That's when I knew you were a Geek. Only scholars go on about stuff like that."
Leaning forward in eager anticipation as he prepared to continue to interrogate her in his own unique style, Joyanne held a hand up to halt him. "Ah! Only one question answered between dusk and dawn. Those are the rules."
"What!? Who made those rules up?"
"I did. C'mon, Daniel, you're sitting at a campfire in the early evening with your friends. This is a time for stories." She rubbed her hands together in anticipation.
Ignoring Daniel's visible frustration at being denied what was quickly becoming obvious was one of his favorite pastimes, Joyanne looked up at the sky; the first of the nights brightest stars starting to appear in the heavens... One of the very first meditations that new potentials were taught when they first arrived at the Temple for the spirtual side of their training, was the easily learned method of always being able to measure the passage of time accurately; it let them know that they could really learn what the priestess' was trying to impart to them about that side of the Slayer. Now, comparing a guesstimate with the time stamp on her implant, she looked over at Teal'c. "Teal'c says he has a tale to tell, but I don't object to paying in advance... Let's see. Oh, yes, how about this..."
She settled herself more comfortably in her position before beginning... "Like every story, this one has two versions... In the very beginning of all things, there was only Chaos, vast and dark. Now Chaos, by its very nature was restless..."
End of Five.
Notes on 5...
The WorldGate mythos to be used in this story belongs to C J Cherryh.