Edit: The vague description of thermal sensors originally present in this chapter has been changed to a series of more explicit references to thermographic imaging technology. The limitations of this technology are briefly discussed in response to earlier reviews. Also, Vi's motivations for not killing humans are more explicitly spelled out. Chapter Seven
“Incredible,” Daniel exclaimed breathlessly, as he came upon Ra's chamber.
The entire room, even lit up only dimly by the little natural lighting available, was obviously an archaeological find like nothing on Earth. Man-shaped statues with the heads of birds of prey filled the walls, forming columns, while a strange golden symbol covered the wall at the front of the room. The architectural techniques used here were at least centuries, probably millennia in advance of anything the Abydonians could have designed. However, none of that was what truly interested Daniel.
The walls of Ra's hidden sanctum were covered in strange symbols: symbols he recognized. They were the symbols on the Stargate! Looking more closely, the archaeologist realized that was not quite true. Within each cartouche on the wall were always seven symbols, and the first six were recognizable. The seventh symbol was one he had never seen before, but was the same within every cartouche. Daniel's breath caught, as he suddenly realized just what he was seeing. However, it was Willow who voiced his thoughts first.
“Th-these, these, they can't all be Stargate codes, can they? But, how can that be? Shouldn't it only have one code for going to Earth?”
Willow's thoughts were on the same wavelength as his, so Daniel replied without prompting to her question.
“Unless we were wrong about the Stargate only working between Earth and Abydos. If the symbols aren't activation codes, but instead something more like an address, then...”
Daniel trailed off, as just what they had discovered here finally struck him.
“Then you're saying that the Stargate might go to all sorts of different planets,” Dawn finished for him. “Every single one of these cartouches might contain the address to get to a different world from Abydos, and the seventh symbol which keeps getting repeated is the symbol for this planet you needed in order to get us home via Stargate.”
Daniel could do little but nod dumbly in reply.
“Wow,” the brunette exclaimed. “So I guess these gates are a bigger deal then we thought, huh. Willow, did you bring your camera?”
The red-headed witch was already getting her digital camera out of her jeans. This was exactly the sort of thing she brought her camera to record after all.
“Right. Just give me a minute, Dawnie, and I'll have this whole thing recorded.”
As the Wiccan began recording with her camera, Dawn walked back to where Vi was standing beside Sha're. The slayer was peering around the room with considerable interest, her eyes only occasionally stopping on Daniel for a moment before continuing their perusal of the chamber. By contrast, Sha're looked positively terrified.
Dawn began to feel a little guilty at her new friend's expression. The Abydonian woman was clearly out of her depth and seemed to expect Ra to come down and personally mete out some divine wrath any second now.
“Hey,” she said, moving to place her hand on Sha're's shoulder before stopping as the other woman flinched away.
Alright, so maybe placing Sha're in a situation where she was certain her God would kill her had put something of a damper on their burgeoning friendship. That was too bad, as anyone who would risk being caught in a potentially lethal storm to help her was someone whom Dawn would be happy to call her friend. She tried to reach the native Abydonian once more.
“Come on, Sha're. I know you didn't want to come here, but it is pretty amazing, isn't it?”
Sha're startled to tremble before falling to her knees. Pointing towards the giant golden symbol on the far wall, she said, “Ra is here. He is watching. May he have mercy.”
Dawn looked towards where Sha're had pointed with confusion, before she was realized what Sha're was saying and smiled.
“You're saying that the gold doohickey's Ra's symbol, huh.”
Getting down on her own knees so that she could talk to her friend face to face, Dawn took Sha're's hands in her own, ignoring the other woman's attempts to shake off her grip. Then she looked directly into Sha're's eyes.
“Sha're, he can't see us here, and, even if he could, I told you that we'd protect you. That's a promise, okay? As long as you stay with us, we'll keep you safe from Ra or anything else that might try to hurt you.”
Sha're was obviously resistant to Dawn's entreaty, but under the force of Dawn's best imitation of the infamous resolve face, she finally nodded.
“I-I do not believe that you can stop Ra, but I will try to trust you, Dawn,” the Abydonian woman said.
Then, as if saying the words once had firmed her resolve, Sha're repeated her words a second time with far more conviction.
“I will trust you, my friend.”
Then, as quickly as she had become serious, levity returned to Dawn's features, as she pulled her friend to her feet alongside her and began to talk a mile a minute.
“Great. Now that that's settled, I guess you'll be coming with us until we dust this fake God dude, which is great.”
Hooking one of her arms around Share's own arm, Dawn continued her cheerful, reassuring rambling.
“I mean, it's nothing against your people, but Abydos is a little too heavy on the whole sack cloth look. I'm telling you, it does nothing for your figure, so as your new friend, my first important task will be to arrange for you to get a whole new wardrobe, and maybe,” Dawn peered at her critically, “a makeover. I mean, your hair's simply gorgeous, but I bet that with a little cosmetic magic, we could really bring out all your best features.”
Dawn continued in this vein enthusiastically, calming Sha're even if the Abydonian woman could barely follow her new friend's train of thought between Dawn's rapid, accented speech and periodic use of terms like 'conditioner,' which she had never heard before. Gradually, even Knowing that Ra would soon come to squash them all like insects, a certain warmth began to grow in her stomach. She had never had a close friend before, as few women of her tribe were interested in approaching the chieftain's daughter unless their family sought a favor. Even so, she had always idly wondered what it would be like to have another young woman in whom she could confide and with whom she could jest. If this feeling of warmth in her stomach was what it was like, then, while it was still not worth being brutally tortured to death by Ra, at least it was a little comfort before she died. As much as she liked Dawn, the foreign girl had no idea the powers Ra commanded, or she would never speak of defeating him so casually. They would all die here. Sha're was sure of that now; but at least they would die together. * * *
By the time the sand storm had ended, hours later, Dawn and her friends had seen all they needed to in Abydos' cartouche chamber. Predictably, Daniel had disagreed, but Dawn had told him that if he didn't get moving, then she would drag him out by his ear, so the archaeologist had decided to stay with the rest of them.
Now that they were approaching the Temple of Ra, knowing that Abydos' self-proclaimed God was likely searching for them, Willow had taken to maintaining a powerful invisibility spell over all five of her friends. She was also carefully erasing their footprints from the sand, knowing that having their footprints appearing out of thin air would be little better than walking in plain sight. Holding all four spells at once, the two translation spells, invisibility and a spell to rub out their footprints, was something of a strain for the powerful witch. However, she was fairly sure that she could manage for at least a few hours, and Ra's temple was less than an hour away now.
When Dawn had tried to explain this to Sha're, the Abydonian woman had naturally asked if Willow was a Goddess. She had then been told quite firmly that making people invisible was something that mere mortals were quite capable of doing. Sha're still looked skeptical, but had at least stopped bowing every time Willow looked in her direction.
Rather surprisingly, the group of travelers had not seen anyone searching for them at all, so far. Dawn had thought this particularly unusual, and, as there was no one around to hear her, decided to make her thoughts known.
“This is just ridiculous! I mean, what sort of Big Bad doesn't have any minions. Even Spike had minions back when he was doing the terrorizing the town thing.”
Willow offered a tentative reply.
“Well, maybe he doesn't see himself as a Big Bad, since he calls himself a God.”
Dawn just rolled her eyes in response.
“And since when do Gods not have minions? I mean, seriously, Sha're, you've seen Ra's minions before, right?”
Sha're felt a bit nervous about being put on the spot, but still thought it best that she answer honestly.
“Ra rarely sends more than two of his chosen to our village at a time. They have the heads of birds, so whether they are the same two or not I cannot say.”
Dawn's eyes widened incredulously, as she threw up her hands in despair.
“Only two minions? Are you kidding me? What sort of low budget God is that?”
Vi offered a suggestion.
“Well, maybe his spaceship was really expensive, so he couldn't afford to splurge on accessories.”
Willow sighed at the turn the conversation had taken.
“You know, Dawnie, most people would think that their enemy having less warriors would be a good thing.”
“Yeah, I know,” Dawn said a bit huffily. “It's just that I figured a God would be just a bit more impressive, even if he was just a faker. I mean, even Glory had oodles of minions and worshipers, and she spent half her time cross-dressing.”
Acknowledging the point, Willow shrugged.
“Well, you know, this is just how it goes sometimes. Sometimes your expectations for the Big Bad are just a bit too high,and you end up getting disa- Oh Goddess!” One Hour Ago
Anubis, First Prime of the Supreme System Lord Ra, was growing tired of the game of hide and seek his quarry was playing with him.
They had not been in the village nearest to Ra's Temple when he arrived in order to apprehend them. He had received descriptions – three young women and a slightly older man, all appearing human, although that meant little – but all the villagers could tell him of their whereabouts was that they had left the village walking in the direction of the sand storm. While they might have died in said storm, he would not risk Ra's displeasure if they had survived and he failed to locate them.
Thus, Anubis had dispatched two death gliders from Ra's mothership with orders to locate anyone who might be walking towards the Temple of Ra on foot. To ensure they were not noticed, the craft would fly at exceptionally high altitudes, using the gliders' acute visual and thermographic sensors to zoom in on the ground. After some minutes in which little was discovered, one of the gliders had reported a strange anomaly.
While the glider's pilot and gunner could visually locate no people in the desert, and could not even find footprints, their thermographic sensors were picking up some sort of slow moving, faintly human-shaped outlines approaching Ra's temple. Even more bizarrely, as the pilot watched the area where the sources of the faint, thermographic images should have been, there was absolutely nothing. That was quite simply impossible. Moving thermographic images needed to have a source, even if only a wild animal or a plant. They did not spontaneously generate themselves out of thin air. It was as if invisible figures were walking through the desert.
Anubis heard this report, and considered how this observation, which the pilot had now checked three times, changed matters. The intruders likely had a working, cloaking device. While rare, there were those among the System Lords who possessed such devices. Even so, the use of such a device would not be merited by a mere reconnaissance mission or attempt to infiltrate a mining colony of minimal strategic value. No. Anubis could only think of one possible use such a device could have at this time on this planet.
Speaking into his communicator, Anubis informed Ra of what he had learned and suspected. The Supreme System Lord heard his suppositions, and then, after a moment, replied in a darkly amused tone.
“An assassination, Anubis?”
The Goa'uld laughed softly.
“What a trite attempt to usurp my authority.”
During the millennia throughout which the Supreme System Lord had ruled, countless assassins had sought to harm him. The System Lords beneath him were little more than treacherous snakes, only kept in check through fear of his wrath. In this climate, assassination attempts were the norm, and he did not fear them.
Ra was the most cunning of his race and the mightiest. No mere murderer could threaten him. Even so, there was no need to leave matters to chance at this juncture. An insignificant fraction of his forces would more than suffice to settle this matter. Then he would seek out the fool who dared assail him. Perhaps it was once again time to remind the System Lords why he was the most feared amongst them. Even his long-lived race seemed to need such reminders from time to time.
Glaring out at his subordinate through the screen of Anubis' communicator, Ra continued implacably.
“Bring whatever forces you deem necessary through the Stargate in order to apprehend these assassins. Just make sure that at least one of them is brought to me alive. I would know which of the Goa'uld is so foolish as to think he could assassinate Ra. Do not fail me, First Prime.”
“It will be as you will, my Lord Ra.”
Anubis had no intention of failing, and felt no need to avoid the use of excessive force. After all, Ra was by far the strongest of the System Lords. Even if one of Ra's world's defenses was lowered for a time, only an imbecile would think that an attack would not be met with a terrifying retribution. Yes. There was no need to bring anything less than utterly overwhelming forces to bear against these assassins. With four more of the Horus guard and a hundred Jaffa, capturing the fools who dared to attack Ra would be child's play. Now
“Oh goddess!” Willow cried out in shock, as line upon line of armored warriors approached them.
Leading the warriors were four men whose faces were covered in bird masks just like those she had seen within Ra's cartouche room. Willow considered simply trying to avoid the men for a moment before realizing that, while it did not appear as if her foes could see either her or her friends, as they continually glanced about warily, they seemed to somehow have zeroed in on their general location. The lines of soldiers were marching directly towards them. How could they have possibly known? Were they using some sort of super-advanced life sign detectors or something? She could not think of any technology on Earth which could pierce her cloak, but these were aliens, so who knew what they could do.
“I'm turning our invisibility off,” Willow announced. “They obviously know where we are, and I'll need all my magic if we're going to be fighting this many guys.”
Her companions, except for Sha're, who seemed to have been struck dumb at the vast army's appearance, nodded, mumbling affirmations. Dawn and Daniel had both unhooked crossbows strapped to their backs and had loaded them, while Vi unsheathed a wicked looking scimitar from its sheath at her side.
Apparently, being a fake God did come with abundant minions after all. Perhaps Dawn would be pleased.
As they faded back into view, the columns of soldiers in front of them came to a halt at the direction of one of the bird-masked figures leading the company. Mentally, Willow pegged him as the leader, and figured that, if it came to a fight, he should be target number one.
Stepping forward, the figure allowed his mask to retract from his face, revealing a human face with odd purple tattoos decorating his cheeks.
“I am Rel'tan,” the man declared loudly in the Abydonian language. “If you do not wish to die, surrender now to the glorious God Ra.”
Dawn glanced at Willow, switching to English as she offered a hopeful suggestion to her friend.
“So, about that recall spell...”
Willow winced in reply.
“Dawnie, you know that I can't use the recall grid to retrieve anyone who hasn't been keyed into the system.”
The witch nodded towards a terrified Sha're, and Dawn winced.
“I know you wouldn't abandon her Dawnie and neither would I. Besides, even if we were willing to leave her, to retrieve a group of this size, I'd need at least a minute or two to prepare.”
She glanced at Rel'tan.
“And somehow, I don't think that this guy's going to give us that much time.”
Indeed, the moment the two women had switched languages and started talking amongst themselves, Rel'tan had his bird helmet return to fully covering his head and directed his soldiers to charge.
“Jaffa kree!” he bellowed in an unknown language, and, from less than thirty metres away, his army surged forth.
At best, the defenders had five seconds before the first of their enemies, wielding intimidating looking steel staves and wearing metallic body armor, were upon them. Even so, Dawn, Vi and Willow had all been charged at by enemies many times before.
Raising her repeating crossbow to eye level, Dawn fired two wooden bolts at the nearest enemy to her position, before dropping her bow and pulling a machete out of her pack as she watched the arrows bounce off the Jaffa's armor.
Simultaneously, Vi actually charged straight towards their enemies' line. At a telepathic signal from Willow, she avoided engaging the bird-masked leader, instead launching herself directly to his right. Unused to having their enemies charge straight into their lines at all, to say nothing of the speed at which the teenaged slayer moved, her opponents were briefly caught off guard. In that moment of distraction, the pommel of Vi's scimitar cracked against the forehead of the first warrior in her path unnaturally quickly.
To her slayer senses, these warriors felt human, or nearly so. They might even be more Abydonians for all she knew, so Vi had decided to opt for non-lethal options as long as possible. After all, she'd never killed a human before, and Buffy had always taught her that slayers did not kill normal people. A quickly reacting Jaffa's staff was blocked with a lightning fast parry just before her right leg lashed out, sending her foe tumbling backwards from the unexpected force of her kick. Then Vi was among the Jaffa, moving like greased lightning from one target to the next.
While Daniel was still fumbling with his crossbow and Sha're was practically shaking in terror, Willow took an approach quite different from her friends' frontal assaults. At full strength, maybe she, Vi and Dawn could have dealt with this many trained and armored enemies. That was a big maybe, but it was at least possible. However, today, she had already spent a considerable amount of her magic translating the local language into English and attempting to conceal her friends. She was not nearly tapped out, but was hardly in tip top shape, and from the little she had seen already, their enemies were not exactly amateurs. In these circumstances, the best they could hope for was to escape.
Muttering a spell as quickly as her clumsy Latin permitted, Willow channeled the dark powers she so rarely touched, knowing, even if she could not see them, that her eyes had turned black as pitch. Against this many foes, she could afford to hold nothing back.
“Verto,” the witch commanded, pointing towards the leader she had picked out.
Then, suddenly, their foes' leader had vanished, leaving nothing but a fluffy white rabbit in his place. That was the first step she had planned. In Willow's experience, minions tended to hesitate for a short time after their leader was effortlessly dispatched, and she suspected that her current foes would not buck this trend. Vi tearing into their lines would also help sow confusion. Hopefully, when combined with her next spell, that confusion would give her the time needed to work a short range group teleportation and get them out of here. They needed to regroup.
“Fiat integumentum magicum!”
Spreading out from her raised hands and extended fingers, a magical shield arose, separating she, Dawn, Daniel and Sha're from Vi and their foes. The shield would not last forever, but she should only need a minute. Unfortunately, her foes were not distracted for nearly as long as she had hoped by their leader's disappearance and Vi.
Within seconds of running into her barrier, another of the bird-masked figures, after failing to pierce the shield with his staff, called out to his troops.
As the apparent new leader spoke, nearly half of his soldiers, those not engaging Vi, turned towards him. Pointing in Willow's direction, the bird-masked figure yelled loudly a second time.
“Trey lan tonik!”
The soldiers held up their staves, pointing their ends in Willow's direction. For a moment, Willow wondered what they might be planning, while she focused on completing a teleportation spell. Then her foe spoke a final time.
Bolts of energy lanced out from dozens of the her foes' staves simultaneously at his call, pummeling her shield with tremendous force. For an instant, it was all the witch could do to remain conscious as magical power rapidly leeched out of her in order to maintain her protection, and then even that was too much. Willow collapsed to her knees, her pitch black eyes rolling back in her head, and finally she fell to the ground, utterly spent. The Wiccan's protection faded as she lost consciousness, and then, suddenly, Dawn, Daniel and Sha're were surrounded, cut off from Vi by a wall of armored warriors.
Vi's position was little better. Handicapped by her unwillingness to kill, the slayer could not seem to reduce her foes numbers swiftly enough to avoid being overwhelmed. Already recovering from their initial disarray, the armored warriors had completely surrounded her, limiting her mobility, while forcing her to defend against a half dozen opponents at once. Against normal humans, even this might have been salvageable, but, while these warriors were no slayers, they were far stronger and more durable than ordinary men, as well as extraordinarily skilled. All they needed was one opening, and the battle would be finished. Vi was good, but she knew that against opponents like these warriors, she could not keep from providing them with that opening forever.
Dawn, Sha're and Daniel were simply swarmed.
Mere instants after Willow collapsed, the bird-masked warrior was charging towards Dawn, meeting her machete blow for blow with his staff. He was stronger, faster and more skilled than her. Dawn knew she would not last long.
Daniel and Sha're fell within seconds, a half-dozen Jaffa clubbing both of them into unconsciousness.
From within the wall of warriors surrounding Vi, Dawn heard a pained cry and then a scream which quickly cut off, but there was no time to mourn her friend. For whatever reason, the bird-masked warrior opposing her had elected to fight alone, but the battle was still nearly hopeless. The difference in their fighting abilities seemed virtually insurmountable to the young woman. Her only chance was to gamble.
As the blade of her opponent's staff shot towards her, Dawn managed to just barely deflect it, racing in close in hopes of piercing the Jaffa's guard before his staff could be brought back into a defensive position. She would only have one chance at this attack.
Thrusting her machete towards her opponent's heart, Dawn anticipated either the feeling of piercing soft flesh or striking impassable armor with nearly equal reluctance. She had never killed anything but demons before, and was not sure that she wanted to add an alien to her count. As it happened, her feelings proved irrelevant, as, impossibly quickly, she found her wrist grasped tightly in one of the masked man's hands, halting her thrust before it could reach him. His other hand still held his staff, with which he disarmed her nearly as rapidly.
Then Dawn was alone and unarmed. Grasped in both hands once more, the leader's staff shot out towards the young woman's head faster than she could possibly have avoided. With a sharp crack, Dawn's entire world faded to black.
Note: I am neither a Latin scholar, nor a Goa'uld scholar (these probably don't exist), so please let me know if I have seriously messed up any if these translations.
Fiat integumentum magicum: This roughly translates as “Let a magical shield come into being.”
Jaffa kree: Depending on the context, this means either “Attack, Jaffa,” or “Listen up, Jaffa.”
Trey lan tonik: Prepare to fire.
Kree! Kek! : Aim! Fire!
Author`s Notes: Sorry for the wait on this chapter, but real life sort of hit hard this last week, severely curtailing my writing time. I also discovered that I need some practice at writing action scenes, as the last scene of this chapter took quite a while. As usual, if you have the time, please let me know what you thought of the latest installment, and here`s hoping that I can be a bit more prompt in getting the next one out.