Later that day, Dawn had taken to following around Skaara's sister, an attractive young woman named Sha're.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, working on the behalf of Ra was not exactly a cakewalk, particularly when Dawn was sleep-deprived after staying awake all night. Apparently, Ra demanded, in addition to a few of their young twice a year, a regular tribute made up of ore mined from a nearby deposit of what the village's people called the Metal of the Gods. Using a more subtle application of her magical abilities, Willow had identified the Metal of the Gods as being the same material from which the Stargate had been constructed. This discovery at least explained how the Stargate might have been constructed from a material not found anywhere on Earth.
However, while interesting, Willow's discovery had not simplified the task of mining for Dawn. Vi had already departed earlier that morning, explaining to Kasuf that she would return after she had retrieved their possessions from the group's previous camp outside the village. As a slayer, sleep deprivation, the weight of their belongings, and even the staggering heat of the midday sun had far less effect upon her than her companions. Moreover, she was unlikely to encounter any danger in the desert which she could not defeat or escape. Certainly, anything which defeated her would also prove more than a match for either Dawn or Daniel.
Thus, Dawn was left to her own devices when it came to mining. The day was hot, and, while she was in excellent shape, the muscles needed for mining were ones she had rarely used before. The younger Summers sister did not really know what she was doing with the village's primitive pickaxes, the best places to hew rock from the quarry or anything else about mining beyond that it involved striking a rock with the head of her stone tool. If not for Sha're, she was not sure what she would have done.
The young woman had voluntarily taken Dawn under her wing when she had noticed her difficulties, doing her best to instruct Dawn in their village's mining practices. Communication between them was still uncertain, as, while Dawn had done her best to pick up the local ancient Egyptian dialect, she lacked the sort of natural talent and experience Daniel used to rapidly pick up the tribe's speech patterns. At best, she and Sha're understood each other half the time, and even that was only when they both spoke excruciatingly slowly. Fortunately, Sha're seemed to be the patron saint of patience, perfectly content to try her best at explaining anything (or, more accurately, everything) Dawn failed to understand. Consequently, Dawn was rapidly increasing her fluency in the local language, while coming to understand the village they had located far better than before.
In return, Sha're seemed to want to know all about Dawn's travels before arriving at her village, having never departed further from her home than to visit the nearest tribe to her father's domain, a smaller encampment two and a half days walk to the north-east. Unfortunately, explaining where she had come from proved something of a trial. She could hardly say that she had come through the so-called 'Ring of the Gods.' A culture at this stage of development would either worship her as a God or set her on fire for committing sacrilege. Either outcome would be counterproductive if they intended to keep a low profile, which, if possible, was the plan. There was no need to let the goold know they were here any earlier than necessary.
Waving her forward encouragingly, Sha're sat down upon a shaded rock, patting the spot beside her in order to, Dawn suspected, encourage her to sit down beside her. The rock lay under the shade of an enclosure the tribe had set up in order to escape the sun during the hottest part of the day, and was one of the few such stones not already taken by others. Apparently, her suspicions were correct, as Sha're smiled at her when she seated herself, holding out some sort of flat bread which Dawn suspected was to serve as their lunch.
Dawn smiled back at the girl, taking a small piece of the offered bread as she thanked Sha're in ancient Egyptian. Haltingly, she tried to begin a casual conversation in the local tongue.
“Are you married? Have a husband?”
Understanding Dawn's slightly broken speech without difficulty, Sha're blushed prettily and replied in the negative, shaking her head.
“Are you interested in men for future times?”
Dawn was well aware that she was mutilating the local language, but would persist unless Sha're asked her to stop. After all, the only way to get better was with practise, and what better way was there for her to practise than to discuss boys with her new friend?
Sha're blushed again, lowering her head. Obviously, the girl was not particularly experienced in these matters. Of course, Dawn could hardly claim to be much better. Technically, she had been with four boyfriends, but considering that the first turned out to be a vampire, the second was just the result of this enchanted football jacket, the third had gone nuts and become a serial killer, while the fourth was an incubus aiming to suck the life out of her, leaving her a dried up husk, she wasn't sure how many of them should really count as normal dating experiences. She figured the part before he became a serial killer should definitely count for boyfriend number three, although Buffy disputed this view. Of course, whether she had real dating experience or not did not really matter, since she could fake it with the best of them. Sha're would just need some encouragement so that she would open up to dating master Dawn.
“Who do you like? Tell me! I'll keep it secret. I promise.”
Sha're nervously leaned forward towards Dawn, glancing around in order to assure herself that no one else was listening to their conversation. Even once she had assured herself of their privacy, the native of the planet whispered her reply in Dawn's ear so softly that the Stargate Project co-director could scarcely make out her friend's words.
“For a long time, I had little interest in such things, but I admire your male friend. He is handsome and treats Skaara well.”
Having said her piece, Sha're could not resist briefly glancing in the direction where Daniel and her brother were sitting together, enthusiastically discussing some subject or another.
While doing her best to look supportive for her new friend, Dawn found herself groaning inwardly. Was she serious? Daniel? Couldn't she have picked some local guy?
Dawn knew she needed to head this off as quickly as possible. She so did not need two of her friends engaging in a cat fight over Doctor Oblivious. She just needed to convince Sha're that he was already taken. It was, perhaps, unfair to her new friend, but friend of many months trumped friend of less than a day no matter how nice Sha're had been to her. All she needed to do was convince the young woman that Daniel was taken by Vi, even if it was not quite true yet. Then she would go trap those two in a cave somewhere until they got together. Seriously, how long were they going to take with the dancing around each other thing? Anyway, she was not quite sure how to say dating in the native tongue, but she thought that she might be able to guess. She could not let the language barrier stop her now.
Thus, as Dawn looked at Sha're with sympathetic eyes, she tried to say, “Daniel is dating. He and Vi are deeply in love. I'm sure they would be happy to spend time with you, but you'll be disappointed if you're hoping for more.”
Dawn really did try her best, and was pretty close to an accurate translation, but she had only been mastering the nuances of this dialect for less than a day, so a few understandable mistranslations cropped up.
Sha're heard, “Daniel is married. He and Vi are really into sex. I'm sure they'd be willing to share, but you'll be disappointed if you're looking for more.”
The local woman's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates before she blushed bright red, hiding her face beneath her long black hair. She had never expected that the nice looking man would be such a deviant. Tonight she would make sure that he was not filling Skaara's ears with filthy ideas, and then tell the other villagers not to disturb Daniel and his woman while they were alone.
“No, no. That is alright. I will look elsewhere,” she replied, still blushing.
After a few moments, as Dawn congratulated herself on her great explanation of the situation, Sha're finally collected herself enough to reply to Dawn's question in kind.
“Are you married, Dawn?”
“No,” Dawn replied.
There was no way she was telling Sha're what her love life was really like, so she would just have to improvise.
“I have bad fortune with men.”
Sha're nodded, still processing Dawn's revelations about her companions. She had heard of tribes where the chieftains took many wives, although her father had never been interested in doing so. However, such things were not possible for men of lesser rank. Was Daniel the chief of these travelers' tribe? With this information in hand, she might have thought the three women with Daniel his harem had Dawn not denied it. These travelers certainly were a mystery. Neither kin nor husband and wives, they did not easily fit into Sha're's worldview.
Even so, the young woman thought, taking a moment to glance at Dawn, as her new friend nibbled on her flat bread, they seemed pleasant and helpful. They had certainly taken in far worse strangers from the desert due to her father's generosity. * * *
While Dawn struggled to learn the local language, Willow had decided to bypass linguistic barriers entirely. Translation spells were tricky things and tended to lead to a variety of misunderstandings, as they were not too much better than Babblefish when it came to catching nuances. Nonetheless, unlike Dawn, she had not spent the last couple of months taking a crash course in ancient Egyptian, so learning the language the normal way would take far too long to be practical. Vi had shared this sentiment, so Willow had also engineered a somewhat simpler and less draining translation spell for the young slayer. Between holding those two spells and her need to cast period rejuvenating charms on her own tired body, Willow knew that she would be sleeping well that night.
Even so, the red-haired witch was confident that the advantage of being able to communicate with the locals was worth the magical drain she was enduring from constantly channeling so much power. While the people of this planet, which they apparently had named Abydos, knew little about their supposed gods, from what they could tell her, Willow could easily guess far more.
The first conclusion she had reached was a confirmation that the goold definitely had some sort of spacecraft, although the Abydonians did not know enough about such things so that she could tell anything about their capabilities or how they might work. Additionally, descriptions of Ra's attendants suggested that most of them were not infested with goold, which could only simplify their mission. Obviously, less super strong and and super advanced snake parasite things was better than more.
Another piece of interesting information was that local cultures were not illiterate due to a lack of natural development, but because Ra had specifically banned reading and writing many generations ago. While it meant that no written records existed, which would make gathering information more difficult, this fact also suggested that Ra was concerned that a more educated Abydonian populace might be able to overthrow or at least seriously inconvenience him. Thus, if it came to open conflict with the goold, subversion of the local populace could potentially provide them with a useful way of striking against Ra.
Unfortunately, while the Abydonians were aware of more goold than Ra, they had no real idea of how many such goold there were or how powerful the various goold were. The wiccan supposed that this lack of awareness was only natural, considering that Ra was worshiped as a God here. After all, how much could a mere mortal truly hope to understand about a God?
In all honesty, while Willow was no shirking violet, mining ore was not exactly how Willow like spending her days, so it was a good thing that the people here were so open about their Gods with strangers. In fact, the entire tribe was rather open in all respects. While she was watched curiously by some and warily by others, the villagers' gazes held little hostility. They were also more than content to share their foodstuffs and water provided that Willow and her friends did their share of Ra's great work. She found herself wondering if all of Abydos' cultures were so open, or if this ease with strangers was a feature particular to Kasuf's tribe. Whatever the answer, this ease certainly had simplified matters for the four visitors from Earth.
By nightfall, Willow was more than exhausted. She was ready to just crawl into her sleeping bag, thankfully retrieved from the pyramid which held the Stargate by the always reliable Vi, and shut the world out for a few hours, or a day, or maybe even a few months. The next day, of course held more mining and magical translating in store for her, so waking up would hardly be a pleasure.
While interesting and informative, so far Willow was not finding Abydos a particularly nice place to visit. Then again, as far as breaks from slayer HQ went, this at least beat the time when she, Buffy and Xander had run into the source of the mythological legends of Scylla while boating in Southern Italy. After fighting that particular four-eyed, six-headed, twelve-tentacled sea monster, Willow had sworn off vacations with her friends for the foreseeable future. After all, there were safer ways to relax during her downtime than vacationing with the Scooby gang, like playing Russian Roulette with five rounds in the gun. So, as Willow drifted off to sleep, she idly supposed, that, while Abydos was not her favorite place in the galaxy, she had been on worse field trips. * * *
One of the benefits of the slayer package was the ability to stay awake for days on end with only limited negative side-effects. Of course, even a slayer needed to sleep eventually, but, for a slayer, eventually could always be postponed for forty-eight or even seventy-two hours without any more serious consequences than increasing irritability. Of course, an irritable slayer was a slayer far more likely to break a hand with a handshake or punch through a wall in a fit of pique, so, historically, most watcher's tended to advise their charges to aim for at least four hours of sleep each night. Even so, that much sleep was not necessary.
Archaeologists who were fanatically devoted to their work were another breed of human whom Vi had noted seemed to be more than willing to go without sleep indefinitely. Exhibit A: Daniel Jackson.
Having learned from his new friend Skaara that the cave walls beneath Abydos were decorated with strange symbols and cave paintings, the archaeologist had decided to forgo silly, trifling matters like eating and sleeping after a hard day's work mining in favor of investigating the underground passages. After her friend had tripped over his own feet for the third time in the process of walking the short distance from his tent to the nearest opening to the underground passages, Vi had decided that she would accompany him. Hopefully, he'd just pass out somewhere and she'd make sure he got to bed alright. However, if necessary, she was willing to follow Daniel around all night in order to ensure that he did not accidentally fall over and break his fool neck while while playing around in the nearly pitch black caves.
Sighing, as she idly wondered just why she was interested in this guy again, Vi watched as Daniel enthusiastically studied some Egyptian hieroglyphics painted on the cave wall, the passage illuminated by their flashlights.
“This recording of these people's history is remarkable. It obviously predates all living members of the tribe by centuries. I also think that it may have actually been intended as a form of resistance against Ra, since it records the fact that he outlawed reading and writing here in response to the rebellion on Earth which unseated him.”
Okay. So maybe coming down here had not just been a waste of time after all. Their most important reason for being here was collecting information, and these hieroglyphics and paintings were apparently about the planet's history. Even so, she would feel a lot better if Daniel had waited until he was a little more awake before taking this trip. He was so exhausted that he had not even noticed her zone out for a few moments while he continued his rambling speech.
By the time Vi started seriously listening again, Daniel had apparently moved on to “talking about immortality here! I'm not sure if it's just the author's supposition or actually true, but the paintings here not only seem to confirm that Ra arrived on Earth using a spaceship, but also indicate that he discovered that he could live forever as long as he remained within a human body. The Ra here might actually be the original Ra! The whole thing's incredible!”
Vi, however, was suddenly confused by another point.
“Wait a second. Ra first arrived on Earth using a spaceship? I mean, we'd all been assuming that he had used the Stargate. That explained why he could not come back, as he might not have been able to find the Earth without the gate or the distance might have been too great at the time. But if this Ra is the original Ra and he came to Earth in a spaceship, then why has he never come back? Wouldn't he want revenge or something?”
His own musings interrupted, Daniel thought carefully about what Vi had pointed out before finally shrugging, unable to reach any firm conclusions.
“Who knows? It doesn't say anything about that here, so I guess we can't do any more than guess. Maybe the loss of Earth destabilized his reign and he had to reorganize, or an external threat might have menaced the goold. Maybe there was even some internal goold political or religious strife at work. It could also be that Ra is not particularly vengeful or perhaps he was being pragmatic. Probably the only way to know for sure would be to ask Ra himself, if the current and original ones are actually the same being.”
Daniel started yawning and nearly tripped over his feet again. Luckily, Vi was able to catch him before he fell.
“There might also be more in the caves, so we should probably – yawn – continue further in.”
Vi looked at Daniel, who appeared as if he was struggling to stay awake, and then considered the narrow, dark, rocky passages.
“No,” she replied.
“I said no. You're too tired to do anymore tonight. You need to get some sleep.”
“I said no,” Vi interrupted him firmly. “Daniel, if you really need to know whether there's anything else in the caves, then I'll go look for you, but you need to stay here or go back to the camp and sleep.”
“But you won't be able to-”
Vi held up a hand, interrupting Daniel again.
“I'll let you know exactly what I see tomorrow morning, and then we can come back here to look more closely tomorrow night. You said these paintings have been around for centuries. They're not going to disappear overnight.”
Biting back a yawn, the archaeologist glared at Vi rather mulishly and started to open his mouth again.
“And if you try to go further, I'll just knock you out and carry you back to camp over my shoulder, so take what you can get.”
Vi was particularly proud of that threat. A month or two ago, she would have never said something like that to a guy she liked, scared that she might frighten him off. However, Dawn had pointed out to her that any guy whose ego couldn't handle the whole slayer package wasn't good enough for her anyway. She still was not the most confident girl in the world, particularly with guys, but, at least when it came to Daniel's welfare, she could be firm.
The archaeologist looked at her uncertainly.
“You'll really look? And you'll tell me exactly what you – yawn – find?”
Daniel sighed in defeat, and then sat down beneath a cave painting of slaves being forced through the Stargate.
“Alright then. Yawn. Since I- yawn – guess I have no choice, I'll wait here for you.”
“Alright. See you in a bit.”
Then, leaving Daniel where he had seated himself, Vi started walking further down the passageway with her flashlight, checking both the main passages and any side tunnels her keen slayer senses discovered. She couldn't hear any footsteps besides her own, so Daniel probably was not trying to stubbornly follow her.
In most areas, there was nothing to see. It appeared that the author of Daniel's hieroglyphics and cave paintings had contented himself with just one act of written defiance, as the rest of the walls were bare. In fact, she was starting to think that by ordering Daniel to get some sleep, she had been saving him from wasting his time, as there didn't seem to be much here beyond rock walls, the odd bump in the ground and an abundance of stalactites. There weren't even any vampires or other assorted undead to contribute to the mildly spooky atmosphere. Then she saw it.
In a tiny, dusty passage right near the end of the tunnel was a large circular stone slab covered in the same strange symbols as had been present on the cover stone on Earth. Unless she missed her guess, this was the symbol sequence needed in order to activate the gate and return them to Earth. Daniel would need to see it as soon as he had gotten some sleep so that he could confirm her supposition, but it looked like these caves were far more important than she had suspected.
Heading back towards her friend at a brisk walk, Vi began to consider how she could handle Daniel. Even though the symbols recorded on the stone tablet were important, as far as she was concerned, Daniel getting some sleep was even more essential. She did not want to lie to him, so she would just have to be firm. She had told him that he could find out about what was in the tunnel in the morning, after he slept, so if he wanted to know more, she would just tell him to hurry up and get to sleep.
Fortunately, as she rounded a corner and came upon Daniel, she saw that there would be no need for any pushiness. Contrary to his protestations, the archaeologist had been exhausted, and, while he had been able to ignore his body's demands while active, once seated, leaning against the wall comfortably, he had succumbed to the need for sleep.
For a few moments Vi simply watched the linguist breathe in and out. At times like this, he looked so young, even though she knew he was nearly a decade older than her. Daniel Jackson had a certain innocence about him. To some degree, this could be seen when he was awake, as he often displayed an absurd amount of faith in his fellow beings and would naively stroll into danger without even seeming to notice his predicament, but when he slept, Vi liked to think the quality shone even more brightly.
Sometimes she wondered if a man as good as Daniel Jackson could learn to live in the dark world of a slayer. Sometimes she was not sure she wanted to see him try, worried that the darkness of the supernatural world might taint him. Then sometimes, like this time, she found herself merely happy that he was here beside her.
After that battle in the cavern beneath Sunnydale High, watching her friends being butchered alongside her by the Turok-han, Vi had wondered for a long time if she would ever really recover. She did not mean that she had gone crazy or even been deeply depressed. She had gone to defend the Hellmouth in Cleveland as ordered and felt that she had acquitted herself quite admirably. However, the girl she had been before Sunnydale, the girl who loved sports, was terrified of dark places and wanted to have a big family some day like her parents, seemed to have been burned away completely by the Hellmouth. Vi had been a slayer, and a good slayer, but she had started to forget how to be a human being.
In hindsight, she felt fairly certain that Faith had noticed her increasing detachment from everything unrelated to her calling, and that was why the head slayer in Cleveland had reassigned her to Dawn duty. At first, Vi had not known what to make of Dawn. Dawn had been through everything she had and more. Even more insanely, the girl had gone through all those trials without the powers of a slayer, and, yet, when she was not on the job, Dawn did normal girl things as if she was just like everyone else. She had really thrown Vi for a loop, having no respect at all for Vi's professionalism or devotion to duty. When Vi inconspicuously trailed twenty feet behind her, searching for threats with all her senses, Dawn would yell at her to catch up, and then start distracting her by pointing out clothing which she thought would look good on her bodyguard. When Vi ran herself into the ground while training, Dawn would force ice cream breaks on her, saying that anyone who worked out that much needed to eat in order to avoid turning into a stick figure. Finally, while Vi had tried to avoid personal attachments, Dawn had pointedly introduced her to virtually everyone the brunette knew, and Dawn knew a lot of people.
Eventually, after a month or so, Vi had started to mellow out. Dawn seemed to insist that she act her age – like a nineteen year-old girl – and would not take no for an answer. She said that she could live with a friend following her around everywhere, but if Vi tried to be her silent shadow, then she would run off and get into trouble just to prove that she could. Thus, Vi had slowly gotten used to playing pranks, making jokes and doing girly things again. Then, almost before she had even realized anything had changed, she discovered that somehow she was happy again. She had not forgotten the Hellmouth, or everything she had seen since then, but her calling was no longer her life. It was just one small part of what made her Vi, and she found that she liked it that way.
Daniel Jackson was not a slayer. In fact, he was about as far from being a slayer as you could get without being a complete pacifist, and, sometimes, Vi really like that he was nothing at all like a slayer.
Blushing a little bit, the red-haired young woman sat down beside Daniel rather closely and lay her head on his shoulder. She would probably be up before he awoke anyway, so he probably would not even notice. Also, she rationalized, if someone came to capture Daniel, then she would notice when that person had to move her head, and would be able to rescue him. Really then, laying her head on his shoulder like this was just a precautionary measure.
Smiling, the slayer allowed herself to start drifting off to sleep. Who was she kidding? Not even Daniel would buy that precautionary measure claptrap. Well, actually, he just might, but if Dawn found them like this, the teasing would never end. Oh well. There were worse things than a little teasing.
AN: So, this chapter was actually supposed to be a fast paced chapter filled with plot. Unfortunately, the characters seem to have highjacked it, and turned it into some sort of romantic comedy/character development thing. Oh well. I've already written the first scene of the next chapter, so I know we'll be diving back into the plot then. As usual, please let me know what you liked or did not like and any ideas you might have about what might come next in this story. To give you an idea regarding how fluid my outlines seem to be, while things like the end of this part of the story are fixed in my mind, the entire Daniel/Vi subplot generated itself largely spontaneously. I should probably make one other note. You probably noticed that Dawn was struggling a little bit in this chapter with the Abydonian language, but this is the last chapter where you're going to see that. Starting next chapter, I won't be pointing out what language characters are speaking anymore during this arc, as, whether through translation spells or skill with the language, all the characters will be able to speak Abydonian well enough to be understood. This is probably a little unrealistic for Dawn, but she has been studying ancient Egyptian for months now, so I don't think it's too far a leap for her.