The Chappa'ai had been used. What fools those beneath him were to think agents could arrive upon his world without his knowledge. He was Ra.
Lounging upon his throne, surrounded by loyal attendants, the God of Abydos looked down upon his world. Even among the Goa'uld, among the Gods, he was deemed the mightiest. The fools who crossed him, be they pawns of Ba'al, Apophis or any other of his trifling foes, would fall before him like chaff.
“Anubis,” Ra's voice boomed out, echoing throughout the throne room of his pyramid ship.
His first prime knelt before his throne, head bowed in submission.
“What is your will, Lord Ra?”
“There are intruders upon my world. You will discover their motivations and then remove them. Have this warship land upon the Temple of Ra. This is where they entered.”
“It will be done, Lord Ra.”
Ra appreciated the irony in having his most loyal defender named for one of his strongest vanquished foes. Thus, all Goa'uld were reminded that he was the one who banished and then slew the most terrible monster of their race, that he was the one who united their race and brought about twenty millennia of prosperity and strength. There was only one Ra, the mightiest of the Goa'uld now, in times past and in times future. Even Anubis bowed before him.
Ra looked upon his world once more, taking in its desert-covered surface, before turning his back upon the viewport. There was no need to oversee the capture of mere infiltrators personally. They would tell all they knew, and then they would die without him lifting a finger. To intervene in such a matter personally was beneath him.
Waving two Abydonian children forward, Ra gestured silently for them to follow him, as he languidly walked towards his personal chambers. He had not yet bathed today. Perhaps he would indulge himself now. * * *
Daniel had never seen Vi asleep before. With her red hair, rosy cheeks from the cold and soft snoring, the young woman had a cherubic appearance in her slumber.
How Vi had ended up falling asleep with her head on his shoulder, Daniel had no idea, although he supposed that she could have shifted in her sleep. He supposed that normally he might not have even minded the position, as the soft weight of Vi's lithe form pressing against his side was far more comfortable than the wall against which he was seated. However, right now, their position presented a significant obstruction to his plans.
Daniel knew that Vi had worked the hardest of all of them yesterday, having to pack up and then carry more than one hundred pounds of gear for hours, as she hiked back to the Abydonian village. Slayer or not, after a sleepless night, that sort of exertion would exhaust anyone. He also knew that, if he moved her even slightly, then she would almost certainly awaken in response to him jostling her head. Vi had informed him that slayers slept light when they slept at all, so he would have better odds of winning it big at the casinos in Vegas than trying to extricate himself from his current position without waking the young slayer.
At the same time, Daniel really wanted to see the rest of the underground caves they had been exploring last night. Who knew what else might have been left behind by the early Abydonians before they forgot how to write? This was the sort of find which a whole archaeological team might have spent months exploring were it discovered on Earth. At the very least, he felt that he needed to give the entire system of passages a brief look before heading out to perform more hard labor.
Deciding to see if he could wait her out, Daniel sat perfectly quietly and still for as long as he could, perhaps an hour, carefully examining the nearby paintings and passage as thoroughly as was possible from his current vantage point. At that point, he decided that he simply could not wait any longer. Maybe he could coax her back to sleep after she awoke.
Thus, as gingerly and carefully as he could manage, Daniel began to stand, carefully supporting his friend's head at the same time, so that it did not bang into the rock wall behind her. Unfortunately, in his gentlemanly plans to keep Vi from being injured, Daniel had overlooked an important detail: Vi was a slayer.
Feeling unfamiliar hands touching her head, Vi's first thought was that someone had caught her by surprise. She was not sure who it was, so the only safe bet was on the unknown person holding her head being an enemy. Her position was precarious, but as long as she caught whoever this was by surprise, it might still be salvageable.
Kicking out with both feet hard enough to knock back and stagger, but not severely injure, a human, Vi simultaneously broke the hold her mysterious assailant had placed upon her head through the simple expedient of striking the wrists of both the hands holding her with her own fists.
Free of whomever had assaulted her, Vi sprang to her feet, hoping to catch her opponent flat-footed. She was perhaps a half a step into the first step of a series of kicks capable of stunning a rhino when her 'assailant's' identity registered and she stopped cold.
“Daniel? Why were you attacking me in my sleep?”
Then, abruptly, she began to recall where she had settled down to sleep last night and considered a second explanation for her circumstances upon awakening. His hands had been rather gentle, cradling her head and protecting it, rather than focusing on grasping it in order to deliver harm or a threat. Could he have been simply trying to get up without waking her? On second thought, that made a lot more sense than Daniel attacking her in her sleep.
So Daniel had been trying to be nice to her and sleepy Vi had gone all kung fu on him. Oh no. He probably would think that she was some kind of violent maniac now. She needed to do some serious damage control quickly.
“I mean, God, I'm so sorry, Daniel. I didn't realize it was you. I thought you might be some sort of nasty vampire or something, not that you're nasty or undeadish or anything like that. Oh God! I can't believe I just called you nasty after attacking you.”
Vi took Daniel hand quick as a flash and stared into his eyes desperately, starting to hyperventilate.
“I'm really, really, really, really, super, so, so sorry. Please forgive me.”
Daniel, in all honesty, had no idea what to think of Vi's extreme reaction. His ex-girlfriend Sarah had always said that he knew nothing about women, and he supposed that this was just one more piece of evidence confirming that view.
Patting the red-haired girl on the shoulder lightly, Daniel replied as gently as possible.
“It's okay. I know you were just startled, and I'm not even hurt.”
“Oh God! I hurt you!”
Apparently, Vi was having trouble understanding English due to her shock.
“No, no,” Daniel replied soothingly. “You didn't hurt me. Look, look. I'm just fine.”
Peering at him hopefully, Vi looked him up and down, and then finally began to calm herself when she saw no signs of broken bones or severe bruising evident. Thank God that she had held back from using her full strength when she kicked him.
Seeing that his friend was finally calming down, Daniel decided to move on to what he considered more important matters than getting punched or kicked.
“So, when you were investigating these tunnels last night, did you discover anything interesting?”
Vi seemed startled at the sudden change of topic briefly before recovering. Oh right. In order to talk Daniel into going to sleep, she had needed to promise that she would explore the rest of the caves for him.
“Oh, actually there is something right near the back. I think it's sort of like what was on the Stargate's cover stone.”
“A cartouche?” Daniel replied, breathless.
Impatiently, Daniel replied, “a cartouche. It's a sort of oval which encloses hieroglyphics. Is that what you saw?”
“Yes. That's it exactly.”
“Where is it? Please show me.” * * *
Willow awoke to the blaring of a magical alarm. In fact, as she slowly struggled her way to consciousness, she realized that she was sensing not just a single alarm being triggered, but a whole series of mystical klaxons going off in her head. That was pretty worrisome, but her sleep fogged mind also felt that it was a bit strange. She did not remember putting up any wards last night which could cause nearly this sort of racket. Were they old wards she had placed somewhere and forgotten about?
Slowly giving up on sleeping in the face of the awful racket from what she now sensed were at least six separate alarms going off at once in her head, Willow forced herself awake and started to take stock of her situation. Where was she? Looking at her tent and focusing upon what she had been doing before falling asleep, she realized that she was in a village on Abydos. She had not put up any wards last night, as she had been far too tired, and could not have possibly been detecting wards triggered on Earth at interstellar distances. That really only left one possibility.
Someone had entered the vicinity of the pyramid in which they had exited the Stargate. Also, considering the sheer number of alarms going off in her head, everything from hostile intent, to the presence of a killer, to dangerous, high tech weapons, she kind of doubted that it was just a couple of kids who had shown up planning to write some graffiti on the temple. She was not sure how, although her bet was on some sort of Stargate monitoring, but someone much more dangerous than the locals, which probably meant the goold, had definitely figured out that they had arrived.
Getting out of her sleeping bag, Willow quickly began to make her way over to the tent Dawn was sharing with Vi. As she approached the tent, the witch felt the ward she had placed on the pyramid's entryway in order to prevent anyone from surprising them shudder and then wink out as it was struck with two powerful energy blasts in succession. Yep. That definitely had not been the local Abydonian villagers.
Opening up the zipper on her friends' tent, Willow quickly looked inside, surprised to see only Dawn present. Where was Vi?
“Dawnie, wake up. I think we may be in trouble.”
“Huh, uh, what?” the brunette groaned, obviously not interested in having her beauty sleep interrupted.
Willow waited a few seconds before getting annoyed that, rather than waking up, Dawn appeared to be trying to snuggle further into her sleeping bag. Frowning, Willow grabbed the edge of the sleeping bag and tried to pull it off the younger girl. Unfortunately, Dawn had anticipated this tactic, and was stubbornly holding onto her covers as well, keeping them from being dislodged.
“Dawn, come on. Get up. We need to talk.”
Groggy, half-open, sullen eyes glared at Willow, contrasting amusingly with the Scooby-Doo pajamas peeking out from under Dawn's sleeping bag. Unfortunately, Willow was not in the mood to appreciate the humor just now, as she was becoming increasingly frustrated with Dawn's immovability.
“Up! We really need to talk, Dawnie. And where's Vi?”
Dawn moaned something unintelligible, turning her head towards her camping pillow.
“Tired. G'way Willow,” the younger woman mumbled.
Willow closed her eyes and counted to ten, resisting the urge to turn Dawn into something nasty. Honestly, the girl was just like Buffy sometimes. Did she not understand that Willow would not have woken her up without a good reason?
Taking hold of the flesh on Dawn's arm, Willow pinched her as painfully as possible, squeezing until Dawn yelped and shot up.
“Ow! Willow, you jerk! Why'd you do that?”
Willow allowed herself a tiny, smug smile. That had definitely woken her up.
“Well, Dawnie, like I said, there's something we need to talk about.”
Dawn's response was to revert to her 'I am so not talking to you right now' glare, fixing angry, beady eyes on Willow.
“Come on Dawnie. Don't be like that. This is important. As our team's leader, it's important that you know about what I just detected, so that you can prepare for possible dangers.”
Dawn's glare seemed to lessen at Willow's mention of possible danger, but she still looked distinctly irritable as she sat cross-legged across the tent from her red-haired friend.
“Okay, fine. But this had better be important.”
“Right. It is. But, actually, Dawn, before we start, do you know where Vi is?”
Dawn waved her off.
“She left early last night to look at those caves Daniel was so excited about with him. They probably just fell asleep down there. Vi's a slayer. I'm sure she's okay.”
“Maybe, but, after we talk, we should probably go look for them. Being split up might not be the best idea right now.”
The second, this time far more clear, implication that they were in danger finally snapped Dawn out of most of her resentment at being awoken so painfully.
“Are we in immediate danger?”
Willow worried her lip with her teeth nervously.
“Well, I hope not, but I can't be sure. We're probably going to be in trouble soon though.”
Willow's obvious distress decided the matter for Dawn.
“Okay then,” the younger girl exclaimed. “Just give me a second to change and we can go find them. You can tell me what's up on the way.”
Leaving Dawn to her privacy, Willow barely had to wait twenty seconds for Dawn to charge out of her tent, fully dressed. Wow, Willow thought to herself. Dawn really was taking this seriously. Normally, Buffy, and Dawn had taken to imitating her elder sister in this respect, insisted on spending at least fifteen minutes getting dressed even for imminent apocalypses. It was good to see Dawnie growing up a little bit.
“Okay, Willow,” Dawn began, briskly striding towards a nearby entrance to the passages beneath Abydos without even waiting for Willow to catch up. “This is where Daniel and Vi went down into the underground caves, so we can start our search here. At the same time, you can tell me all about whatever perilly stuff's going down. Okay?”
Willow nodded, ducking her head below a stalagmite near the cave's entrance.
“Right. No problem. It's just that you know all those sort of wardy things and the ancient protection sort of stuff I put together back at the pyramid?”
“Sure,” Dawn replied, turning on her flashlight.
“Well, I sort of set them to make an alarm kind of thing if they were disturbed. You know, so we'd know if anyone came by. I also made this kind of shield thing to stop anyone bad from disturbing us without warning.”
“Cool. So one of your alarm thingys went off?”
“Well, um, not exactly. It was more an all alarming at once sort of thing. They were supposed to detect varying levels of dangerous badness, and just about everything short of the Hell God detector started screaming at once a few minutes ago. Then some jerk blew up my shield.”
“Huh,” Dawn replied, furrowing her brow in concern. “So, not quite a Godzilla-sized bad then, but maybe his runty second cousin. Does that sound about right to you?”
Willow thought this over briefly before replying.
“Well maybe, but they still felt pretty bad. Maybe if the runty cousin still has the the radiation breath thing going on.”
“So, runts with bad breath. You thinking they could be goold?”
“I guess so,” Willow replied shrugging. “I mean what else could they be? Do you think we should try the recall spell?”
Dawn mulled this idea over for a moment, continuing to cast her eyes around the tunnels she was walking through in hopes of catching sight of Daniel or Vi. She was actually surprised that she and Willow had not run into them yet. There was not much passageway left at this point, so, if they were here, they would need to show up in one of the next few side tunnels. Hopefully, she would catch them in some sort of compromising position, so that she could collect blackmail – ahem, she meant commemorative photos, of course.
“We should talk it over with Daniel and Vi too, but I think that we should save that for a more desperate situation. If they've figured out we're her, then getting back here through the gate in the future will be way harder. They might even start coming through themselves if they can, so we should probably try to collect some more info first.”
Willow nodded thoughtfully.
“Okay. That makes sense. Even so, once they realize we're not at the temple anymore, this village is probably the next place they'll check.”
Dawn nodded in agreement.
“Yep. So we'll need to get out of here asap. I figure we should probably make tracks as soon as we catch up with the love birds.”
Finally, in the last side passage within the cave system, Dawn and Willow found Daniel and Vi. The archaeologist was peering forlornly into a small hole beneath a large, circular tablet which it looked as if he had dug it out with his bare hands. Meanwhile, Vi was looking on in mild concern.
“So it's not here?” Vi asked.
Daniel just shook his head, peering at a blank piece of rock which he had apparently dug out of the ground beneath the larger tablet.
“It was, but I guess it's just been too long. It's worn off.”
“Daniel, Vi” Dawn called out from behind him, watching the archaeologist shake his head in frustration with mildly slumped shoulders. “Are you two alright?”
“Yes,” Daniel replied wearily, looking over his shoulder. “It's just... we found it, but it's not here.”
Dawn and Willow both looked confused at this conflicting statement.
“Um, come again,” Dawn replied. “With help files enabled, maybe.”
Turning fully towards his friends, Daniel just sighed, looking frustrated.
“This is the cartouche,” he said, indicating the cartouche behind him with his right hand. “It's exactly what I was looking for in order to get us back to Earth using the Stargate.”
Willow and Dawn both looked confused at his attitude.
“But, isn't that good?” the red-haired witch asked. “I mean, it's just, when I find what I'm looking for, I'm usually not all with the weary sighy kind of thing.”
Daniel smiled slightly at the wiccan's characteristic abuse of the English language.
“It is good, I suppose. It's just that the seventh symbol, the point of origin symbol, has worn off. We can't use the gate with only six symbols.”
Willow and Dawn finally understood. Even so, there were worse problems. After all, they could still use the recall grid in order to get home.
“That's too bad, Daniel,” Dawn replied sympathetically, “but if it's just the origin symbol, we might still be able to work it out. Who knows? It might even figure into the local mythology somehow, considering it's the symbol for this world.”
Daniel nodded, seemingly slightly perked up by this suggestion.
“So, I guess the next step is to ask the villagers-”
Dawn interrupted him.
“Um, no, sorry, but that's going to have to wait.”
Dawn interrupted Daniel again, nodding towards Willow.
“Willow, why don't you explain to them what you just finished telling me.” * * *
When Sha're came to find Dawn and her companions the next morning, she was surprised to discover that their camp had been wholly deserted. Most of their belongings and their tents remained, although Sha're could not divine the purpose of much of what the strangers owned, but the occupants of the camp themselves seemed to have vanished.
The young Abydonian woman had intended to tell the travelers that their labor on behalf of Ra was to be cancelled that day on account of the the approaching sand storm the village's sentries had spotted from atop the walls. However, she had not expected them to have already departed so early in the morning. As their possessions remained here, she doubted that they had moved on in their journey, but it also seemed unlikely that they had left early to labor on behalf of Ra. While they had done their duty yesterday, she had seen easily that these strangers had little experience in mining, and, while they tried to hide it, felt little reverence towards Abydos' God.
Of course, they might remain within the village's walls, but, upon searching, she could not find them or anyone who had seen them since the night before except for the gate guards. Apparently, a half hour before the storm was first seen from afar, the travelers had asked permission to return to their previous camp one more time in order to acquire some small possessions Vi had been unable to carry back the day before. While those at the gate felt some guilt that the new arrivals were apparently walking into a lethal sand storm, none had been willing to chance being caught outside during the storm in order to warn them of its approach. They were mere strangers after all.
Sha're had been horrified at this news, and immediately demanded to be let outside the walls so that she could search for her new friend Dawn. The guards refused her, but she had no intention of allowing them to stop her. In places, the walls were poorly maintained, and she easily slipped through a large crack in the rock barrier only a handful of minutes after the guards had refused her.
The sand storm was swiftly approaching, no more than one and a half hours away now, so it might not be possible to return to the village in time, but she knew many caves which could be used for shelter between here and the Temple of Ra. Dawn had told her that she and her companions had camped near its base, so finding them should not be too difficult. She would need to run, but she should be able to get to them in time to reach shelter if she hurried. * * *
For a person without supernatural abilities or advanced technology, coming upon a slayer unawares was an extremely difficult endeavor. If the one approaching was a village girl running pell-mell through a bleak desert on a sunny day, it was essentially impossible. Thus, long before Sha're reached Vi or any of her friends, the slayer knew she was coming towards them over the dunes and suggested they stop to wait for her. It was true that they did not intend to return to Sha're's village, but, as frantic as she looked, Sha're must have some urgent reason for following them.
By the time she reached them, the Abydonian villager was clearly exhausted from her run, panting heavily. However, she did not let her weariness stop her from relaying her warning to Dawn. Fortunately, thinking that either the goold or their servants would likely understand the Abydonian language considering their biannual visits to the local village, Willow had not released the translation spells on herself or Vi. Thus, they were all able to make out Sha're's warning.
“The sand storm approaches,” the Abydonian woman panted out, pointing to the rapidly moving cloud on the horizon. “If we do not find cover before it arrives, we will surely perish.”
The four visitors from Earth cast uncertain glances at one another. They had been planning to simply endure whatever punishment the storm on the horizon meted out, figuring that it could not be any worse than what would happen if the goold found them. Vi had even offered the suggestion that the storm might provide them with cover as they approached Ra's temple. It was Dawn who asked the question which was on all of their minds.
“Just how bad is this storm, anyway? I mean, couldn't we just walk through it?”
Sha're's eyes widened in disbelief at this query. How far away had these travelers come from to not know the lethality of the desert's wrathful winds.
“Only a handful have ever survived the desert's wrath without cover. To brave the storm is to die.”
Dawn and her friends winced at this pronouncement. Dying sounded kind of bad. Avoiding the storm would probably be best. Willow piped up then.
“Um, so, is there anywhere we can go nearby which will get us under cover until it passes?”
The witch looked towards the storm which was now very nearly upon them.
“I mean, it's kind of too close now for us to make it back to your village before it reaches us.”
The Abydonian woman looked briefly uncertain.
“You moved faster than I had expected, so I am not sure that we can get to any of the caves I know in time.”
Sha're seemed to hesitate.
She trailed off, but Dawn knew they could not exactly afford to stand around if some sort of deadly storm was only minutes away. She grabbed Sha're by the shoulders.
“Please, Sha're, if you know somewhere we can go, take us there.”
“I-I-” the woman stuttered, before seeming to make up her mind and nodding firmly. “Come. There is a place.”
The cave to which Sha're took them then was, even at first glance, obviously man made and far better maintained than the passageways beneath Sha're's village. Unlit torches were held to the walls by torch holders, while the walls themselves were far more smoothly hewn than should be possible with the tools available to the Abydonian people. Fascinated, Daniel immediately began questioning their native guide as he started to walk deeper into the passageway.
“What is this place? Did your people build this?”
Sha're shook her head and grabbed Daniel's arm in order to stop him from going further.
“No. We must not go any further. To even go this far is forbidden, but we may be forgiven so long as we do not trespass further.”
“Forbidden?” Daniel asked. “By who? Is this a holy place to your people?”
“This is Ra's place,” Sha're replied, nervously looking around as if the Abydonian God might at any moment leap out from the shadows and smite her. “Any who enter are smote down by Ra's servants.”
Once again, the four travelers looked at one another carefully. This was not a temple, or else Ra's worshipers would be allowed to enter, and none of them thought it terribly likely that a self-proclaimed God would set up shop in a dank cave when he had an elaborate temple only a few hours walk away. That meant that this might be somewhere important: somewhere Ra was hiding something or storing something.
Seeing agreement amongst themselves, all four answered the questions in each other's eyes with slight nods. It was unfortunate that Sha're was here, as they would rather not have to fight with or offend her, but this place was too important to just leave alone.
Seeing the nods and expressions on the four strangers' faces, Sha're did not immediately realize what they intended, but still felt wary. While she had felt friendship towards Dawn, in truth, she scarcely knew these people. None of her people would be foolish enough to deny the edicts of Ra, but could these foreigners be so ignorant?
“Sha're,” Dawn finally declared apologetically. “I'm sorry, but we're going further inside. You don't have to come though. You can just wait out here if it makes you more comfortable.”
The Abydonian woman's eyes widened, as she panicked.
“No, no! If you enter, Ra will know, and he will kill us all!”
Dawn simply smiled sympathetically at Sha're, as her companions stepped around the native of Abydos, Daniel carefully tugging his arm out of her grip.
“Shar're, don't worry. We'll protect you if Ra comes, alright. We won't let Ra do anything to you.”
“Do you not understand? He is a God! None can oppose him,” the Abydonian woman declared fiercely.
This time it was Willow who replied kindly, glancing at Dawn's friend over her shoulder.
“Don't worry about Ra. He wouldn't be the first so-called God whose come after us, and we're still here.”
As even Dawn walked past her towards the interior of Ra's holy place, Sha're began to realize that she would not be able to convince these strangers not to violate Ra's sanctum. Their fate, and hers as well, was sealed. These strangers did not understand the infinite power of Ra, his majesty and terror, so they would violate this sacred place. She who so foolishly led them here would be shown no mercy by her God. There was no hope left for her or them.
Looking towards Dawn and her companions, who were already vanishing into the darkness of the underground passage which led to Ra's sanctum, Sha're finally began to walk after them hopelessly. If it was her fate to die, then she would prefer to at least not do so alone.
AN: So that's another chapter out of the way, and, as promised, the plot has returned. This time out, I'm a little curious as to what you all thought about the scene at the beginning with Ra. There's not a lot of scenes with him in the series, and, like many characters appearing in the Stargate movie, I often found him a bit over the top, so I'm not sure quite how I did here in presenting him. Another thing which I am a bit curious about right now is how everyone here feels about sequels. To be precise, we're coming up on the end of the Abydos mission in five or six chapters, and I'm not sure whether I should stop this story there and start a sequel (which would tentatively be titled 'God, Gates and Slayers' and which would focus far more heavily upon Buffy and the original Scooby gang) or whether I should just switch this story's category to general and continue onwards. To me, both approaches seem to have some merits, so I'd like to hear what you have to say on the matter.