Dawn awoke alone.
She was laying in a luxurious four poster bed, staring straight up towards the bed's wooden canopy, which was adorned with golden swirls. For a moment, the brunette wondered where she was.
Intending to look around at her surroundings, Dawn tried to turn her head and found it restrained by a metal collar. A few aborted movements proved that the same was true for her hands and legs. Kinky bondage games were not exactly her thing, so, at first glance, it appeared that she had been kidnapped again. No. That was not quite right. Gradually, faded recollections of her last moments of consciousness drifted through her mind. She had been captured. Was this supposed to be a cell? An interrogation chamber? What was with the luxury bed?
What felt like hours later, although it was more likely only a few moments, a booming, unnaturally pitched voice echoed throughout the room, it's source beyond Dawn's limited field of vision.
“At last you awaken, human. Tell me your purpose in coming to my world, and I shall grant you mercy. Refuse and you shall feel the fullness of my wrath.”
Dawn's throat was parched. How long had she been unconscious for? Where were her friends? Were they alright?
A hand entered her field of vision, held out just above her forehead. The hand was adorned with golden bands covering its fingers, and a glowing red jewel was suspended within its palm. Still groggy, Dawn recalled that she had studied a similar device in the Council's repository of artifacts. Perhaps she would see how it worked now.
“Human, you will answer me.”
Then there was pain. A terrible, searing agony scythed through Dawn's mind, as the jewel in the hand device's center glowed blood red. For a few seconds, that terrible all consuming ache became Dawn's entire world. Centered on her skull, the pain cut through her thoughts like nothing she had ever felt before, seeming as if it were on the verge of tearing her mind to pieces. Then, after a few seconds, which felt like an eternity, the pain ceased and the hand withdrew.
“That was but a taste of what can be done to you, human, if you do not answer me.”
The pain was terrible. Even now, seconds after the torture had ceased, Dawn could hardly seem to think at all. A jack hammer was going off in her skull, leaving her practically insensible. What was the question? She shouldn't answer, right? Whatever it was, these were bad guys, so she shouldn't answer anything.
Then the jewel and pain returned. There was screaming. Her throat was raw. It must be her her own voice screaming then. Or maybe not. What had she been thinking? It was so hard to think through the agony.
“You cannot hide anything from Ra, human.”
Barely able to think through the pain, Dawn reflected wryly that she certainly seemed to be managing so far, or else he wouldn't be torturing her anymore, right? Then again, maybe she had already spilled everything, and now he was just torturing her for fun. Her memories, her senses, everything was foggy right now. It didn't matter. Buffy wouldn't tell this evil asshole anything, so she would not give him anything either.
Dawn gritted her teeth, tasting blood. She must have bit her tongue.
Then the pain returned. The screaming returned.
A few hours later, Dawn would have told Ra anything he wanted, if only Dawn could remember his questions.
Looking upon his human victim, as the female lapsed into unconsciousness, Ra found himself only mildly displeased.
She had told him nothing of use. The human had proven herself resistant to his hand device.
While unfortunate, this situation was hardly unexpected. The Goa'uld hand device tortured its victim by causing searing, synaptic pain within the mind. Thus, if applied for more than a short time, the device was more than capable of causing short term memory loss or even brain damage. While a useful tool in many respects, the hand device's capacity to extract information from the unwilling was limited to say the least. Even so, humans were naturally weak creatures, easily broken, so, in time, he would likely succeed in extracting the information he desired in this manner. However, he was not inclined to wait that long.
Ra was impatient to discover the secrets of this female and her companions. He was not particularly interested in their motivations or plans, of course, although he would naturally wreak a terrible vengeance upon whomever had dared cross him. However, her technology was of significant interest.
Anubis had not located any technology sufficiently advanced to have generated either the cloaking field or barrier his forces had observed. Even more surprisingly, one of the woman's companions had apparently transformed one of the Horus guard into a small, fluffy creature. So far, this transformation had proved irreversible.
The life of a Horus guard was nothing to Ra, but understanding how the transformation had been carried out was worthwhile. After all, if Anubis and the scientists Ra had sent to study the humans' possessions had failed to recognize any technology, then either extremely advanced technology was in use, or the women were some new form of hok'taur. In either case, understanding their abilities had the potential to greatly enhance Ra's already preeminent power and standing amongst the System Lords.
Even if he incurred some small cost in doing so, Ra felt that rapidly procuring all this female's secrets was worthwhile. If torture was thus far proving ineffective, then another, swifter course would need to be pursued. Yes. The God of Abydos' thoughts turned to the countless Jaffa, little more than walking incubators, within his domain. There was an obvious solution to the problem of the human female's defiance.
Ra smiled smugly. Very soon, this small matter would be resolved to his satisfaction. * * *
Little more than two days into her captivity, Willow was largely recovered and planning a jail break.
The witch had realized very quickly that the goold, or, now that she had heard them spoken of a few times, she supposed the proper pronunciation was Goa'uld, knew very little of magic. Consequently, much like their human counterparts, Goa'uld prisons did not seem to take anywhere near the precautions necessary to contain a powerful witch.
She was still a little bit tired from having her shield soak up all of those energy blasts earlier, and felt stupid for not realizing just what the implications of alien ray guns might be to her capacity to protect her friends. Even so, Willow knew that she could escape from this prison at any time.
The easiest method she could pursue would be simple teleportation. She could either use the recall grid to go back home, or instantly transport herself to a familiar location on Abydos (which really meant that she would have to go back to either the village or Ra's underground sanctum, as she had already identified her current prison as sitting right on top of his temple). Unfortunately, escaping alone would do nothing for her friends, so she would need a different plan.
Simply doing her whole seriously bad-ass witch routine and beating the crap out of her guards could maybe work, but she really was not in the mood to get shot with whatever their energy staff things were firing again. That left sneaky options, which were not exactly Willow's forte. Even so, she had spent enough time around Buffy, and had enough magical tricks up her sleeve, that she thought she could probably make something work.
There were only two guards in the room, and while both were alert to any physical threat she might present, neither one had even the most rudimentary telepathic defenses. To invade a mind unwillingly went against the code Wiccans lived by, and twisting minds was even worse, but, to Willow, saving her friends had always come before preserving her magical purity. Even after all her struggles with black magic and addiction, this aspect of her personality had not changed. She might not want to influence her guards' minds, but she would do so in an instant if it might help her safeguard her companions' lives. That said, there was no need to be too heavy handed. Slipping a simple suggestion into their minds would suffice. Ra wants all the prisoners gathered together. We must take our prisoner to join the others.
The guards barely fought the suggestion at all. Against only two minds, with enough power, Willow could likely have convinced them of anything. However, she would likely have to deal with her friends' guards as well, not to mention possible sentries patrolling the halls of wherever she was being held, so it would be best to conserve her energy. Thus, reasonable suggestions, which would not be fought too hard, were the order of the day. Once she had all her friends together again, Willow could worry about doing something more heavy handed in order to get them to the Stargate.
One of the guards, a tall, heavily muscled, black man, quickly removed the chains attaching her to the wall of her cell.
“Woman, by order of the great God Ra, you will now be transported. Do not resist or you will be killed.”
Willow simply nodded her consent. After all, why would she argue with a bad guy who was doing exactly what she wanted?
Leaving her cell along with the two Jaffa guards who trailed behind her, staff blades pointed at her back, Willow moved quickly, following the guards' directions towards her friends.
The hallways of what she assumed must be Ra's spaceship were an unusual amalgamation of functional, futuristic looking technology and ornate marble and gold decorations, which would not have looked out of place in a Pharaoh’s tomb. Then again, considering that the Goa'uld had ruled ancient Egypt before the Pharaohs, those tombs might just be poor imitations of Goa'uld architecture for all she knew.
Directing the few guards they passed in the halls to think that she and her guards were just where they were meant to be was a simple matter. After all, anyone they passed simply saw a prisoner being escorted by two guards. She needed to do nothing more than suppress any curiosity regarding why the prisoner was being moved and then carry on.
Collecting Daniel and Sha're was a fairly simple matter as well. The only complication was that three prisoners being escorted by two guards would look a bit suspicious, so she decided to take her companions' guards with them. Manipulating six guards at once was a bit of a stretch, but Willow thought that she could probably manage so long as she did not have to do any other demanding magic at the same time. Adding Vi and Dawn's guards as well might be a bit more difficult, but she would cross that bridge when she came to it.
For a few moments after retrieving the archaeologist from his cell, Willow had worried that Daniel might try something stupid, but a firm glance in his direction and a subtle shake of her head dissuaded him. Daniel did not know what she had planned, but as long as she had something planned, he seemed willing to defer to her. Sha're, by contrast, was far too terrified of this strange place and Ra's chosen guards to even contemplate escape plans. The girl clearly thought that these guards were taking them to their deaths or worse, and, while Willow tried to reassure her by squeezing her hand, it was clear that little could soothe Sha're in her present state.
Everything was going according to Willow's plans right up until they reached the hallway to either Dawn or Vi's cell. Then things got a little bit more complicated.
Four Jaffa were strewn about the corridor in front of her next to her companion's cell, unconscious, but not dead. At the sight of their fallen comrades, half their guards carefully moved towards the hallway's sole occupied cell door, the remaining three guards placing the business ends of their staves directly against Willow, Daniel and Sha're's backs.
“Move and you die,” one of the guards behind them intoned sternly.
This complication could make matters much more difficult. Planting subtle suggestions in unconcerned minds was one thing, but, even for her, seizing control of the three guards behind her before they could get off a shot or simply stab one of her friends would be tricky. Even if she could manage it, there were still three other guards. Willow bit her lip nervously, uncertain as to what her next move should be, and then her ruminations became academic.
The moment the three guards in front of them moved inside the corridor's supposedly occupied cell, Vi slipped out of a shadow like the proverbial wraith. Creeping up behind the Jaffa holding their staves to Daniel and Sha're's backs, the slayer then proceeded to knock both out with a pair of simultaneous, super-powered blows to the backs of their heads. Before the two guards even realized what had happened, both were limply falling to the floor.
Seeing two of his comrades collapse, the final guard covering Willow moved to stab the bladed end of his staff forward into his captive's back, but Vi was already there. Impossibly quickly, she knocked the Jaffa's staff out of position, and then put the large man to sleep with a powerful uppercut to his jaw.
Then, after putting a finger to her lips to indicate to her companions the need for quiet, Vi padded silently after their final three guards and stepped into the room behind the three Jaffa. For a few seconds, the sounds of a scuffle came from within the room, and then Vi was soundlessly gliding out of what Willow now presumed must have been her cell, a smile on her face.
“It's so good to see you three! Are you guys okay? And what did you think of that rescue? Pretty cool, huh?”
Daniel smiled at the red head's infectious enthusiasm, but Willow appeared less impressed, sighing.
“Thanks a lot, Vi, except, you know, I sort of had everything under control already. I mean, with my whole mind controlling mojo going on, I was sort of already on the freeing us all thing. So, now that our guides are knocked out, do you have any idea where Dawn is being kept?”
Vi pouted. How was she supposed to know that Willow already had a plan to free them all?
“Hey, well, it's not my fault that my escape plan interrupted your escape plan. I mean, if you'd just waited in your cell, then I totally would have had you out in a jiffy.”
“Sure you would have,” Willow replied, eyebrow still raised. “And Dawn?”
“Well, we can just look around this place until we find her I guess.”
Willow looked entirely unimpressed with this suggestion, so Vi quickly moved on to another option.
“Or maybe we could interrogate a guard or something.”
“Well, that might work better if you hadn't knocked all the guards out, Vi.”
“Well, can't you do some sort of wake-up spell or something?”
“No way!” Willow demurred. “Messing with people's minds like that is dangerous magic, and it shouldn't be done without a good reason!”
Vi simply stared at Willow, eyes boring into her.
“I'm serious!” the Wiccan replied stridently.
Vi simply continued to stare, silently mouthing the words ' mind controlling mojo' at Willow.
This time it was the witch's turn to pout.
“Well, this was like a special circumstance! I can't just go doing mind magic all the time! It's corrupting! Besides, even if I could wake one up, he'd never tell us anything.”
Then, seeing that Vi was not even close to buying this excuse, having started mouthing ' mind controlling mojo' at her again, Willow released a defeated sighed, shoulders sagging.
“Fine. But just this once. You have no idea how far all this bad mojo's setting me back on my 'Willow, the good witch' kick.”
The red-haired witch huffed indignantly, but then went to work on the Jaffa who had nearly stabbed her, starting to chant in Latin once more.
Reviving the Jaffa and interrogating him with a truth spell proved easy enough for Willow, so their team shortly found themselves on the move once again. Dawn was being held in one of the rooms Ra had set aside on his ship for visiting dignitaries. They all thought that was a bit weird, but who knew why some self-proclaimed God did anything? Maybe he just wanted to do his interrogation in comfort or something. The room was only two levels above them, so it was a fairly short trip. Even so, it was not short enough to keep their group from being spotted.
Two stout Jaffa sighted them as their motley group rounded a corner only a few corridors away from Vi's cell. The pair were no match for Vi and Willow, but did manage to voice a warning over their communicators before the slayer and witch were able to dispatch them. That made things somewhat trickier, as they quickly found themselves inundated with Jaffa searching for the reported escapees. However, moving in small patrols of four or five, the individual Jaffa units were far from a match for both a slayer and a powerful Wiccan. Thus, even in the face of a determined search, it was not long before the four travelers arrived at Dawn's quarters.
The door was entirely unguarded, setting off warning bells in both Willow and Vi's heads. However, stretching out with her magic, Willow could only sense one person in the chamber where Dawn was apparently being held prisoner, so, if this was a trap, it did not appear to be a very good one. Even so, Vi was extremely careful in opening the door, making every effort to present as small a profile as possible to anyone inside the room.
However, as the red-haired slayer peered inside the room, she only sighted a single occupant, just as expected. Dawn was sitting up idly on her bed, her left side facing the door. As the door opened without any discernible source, Dawn glanced towards the open doorway with a mixture of confusion and irritation.
“Hello? Who's there?”
Dawn's voice seemed oddly deep, and her body language was wholly different from what Vi remembered of her friend. The slayer's instincts were practically screaming at her that there was something wrong with this situation. The door had not been locked and Dawn appeared to be entirely free to move around, without even a guard in sight. What was going on here? She supposed that there was only one way to find out.
Warily moving into the doorway, Vi peered towards her friend searchingly. She looked the same as ever. Normally, the way her instincts were blaring a warning, Vi would guess that Dawn might be possessed, but the slayer was not sensing anything. She could not even catch a whiff of demonic taint.
“Dawn, are you alright?” the slayer asked hesitantly. “We need to go.”
For a moment, Dawn looked completely shocked to see her, the prisoner's mouth falling open in bafflement. Then, as Vi half-expected, Dawn's expression shifted into an ugly, sadistic smirk, as she moved so that her right hand was facing the doorway.
Vi was already moving out of the line of fire when Dawn raised her right hand towards the slayer, a red jewel shining in its golden palm, but she was not nearly fast enough. Before she could even register what was happening, Vi's body was hurtling backwards, seemingly of its own volition, crashing roughly into the wall behind her.
Stunned by the powerful telekinetic blow, Vi looked towards Dawn, trying to understand what had just happened through the confused jumble of her thoughts. Vi had not been able to detect any signs of possession, so why had Dawn struck her like that, and how had she done it? Was it a spell, or maybe some kind of alien brainwashing?
Wait. She was wearing one of those Goa'uld gauntlet things. That was how she had attacked. It was supposed to be able to strike at its user's foes telekinetically, although Dawn had never figured out how to work one before they had arrived upon Abydos. But where had she gotten it, and why use it against her friends?
Wincing in pain, Vi's eyes rose to meet Dawn's own ocean blue orbs, and she froze. Dawn's eyes were glowing. They were like two tiny, golden suns, burning. That was when Vi realized that she was not looking at Dawn anymore. The legends of the Goa'uld on Earth said that their eyes glowed, and that they were parasites who took over human bodies. Even if she could not sense whatever was now occupying her friend's body, Vi knew that she was staring at a Goa'uld.
Vi felt tears welling up in her eyes, as she recalled the mission briefing Dawn had given their team on the Goa'uld. According to the Watcher's Council's fragmented records, Goa'uld were supposed to be impossible to remove without killing their hosts. Once a Goa'uld took over a person's body, the ancient Council had treated that person as being no different from a vampire. She could not believe that. Dawn could not be gone. She could not be dead. They had to be able to save her.
Staring contemptuously at the fallen slayer, the thing in Dawn's body laughed ominously, its unnaturally deep voice echoing around its room and the hallway beyond.
“You will find, human, that we will not be going anywhere.”
Already, Vi was getting to her feet, the Goa'uld's telekietic blow having only stunned her for a moment. However, before the slayer could make her next move, Willow strode forward to stand in the doorway between Vi and the creature occupying Dawn's body, expression grim and lips pursed.
“Dawnie, if you're still in there, I'm sorry about this.”
Then Willow simply pointed a finger at Dawn's body, and suddenly the alien found itself pinned to the wall beside the four poster bed upon which it had been seated. Then a wave of the red-haired witch's other hand sent the Goa'uld's hand device flying out of its grip to land a half a dozen feet away.
As she slowly walked towards the Goa'uld in Dawn's body, something like black ink seemed to seep into Willow's eyes until twin dark pools glared menacingly at whatever had taken over Dawn. The witch's red hair began to darken and then blacken, until it was replaced by strands of ebony. As the furious Wiccan's hair and clothes fluttered and swirled, as if teased by a non-existent breeze, the Goa'uld in Dawn's body remembered the power of the woman before it.
Willow Rosenberg, while a mere human, had once nearly destroyed a world with her sheer magical might. She had flayed a man alive at the height of her fury. Accessing Dawn's memories of the foe before it, for the first time, the young Goa'uld within Dawn felt fear.
“You will find, creepy snake thing, that possessing my friends is really not a good idea. So, if you want to live, you had better get out of Dawn right now.”
The young Goa'uld's genetic memory clashed with the memory of its host. This was merely a pathetic human, yet its host's memories showed her displaying terrifying power. Even so, it was Goa'uld. No human could stand before it.
“Let me down, human. I command it.”
“You command it, huh?” the black-eyed witch replied glibly.
Willow's visage morphed into a rictus of barely leashed fury, black veins appearing all over her face, as her own voice began to deepen unnaturally. Her very presence felt suffocating to the young Goa'uld, as it became seized by atavistic terror. What was this woman? What kind of monster was she?
“Get out of Dawn right now or I will tear you out and flay you alive! Do you understand, you little worm?”
The Goa'uld was terrified, but it would not bow to this human. The Goa'uld bowed to no human. If this monster tried to remove it, then it would tear the one named Dawn's spine to shreds before it left her.
The witch's face seemed to darken further, and the oppressive weight and feeling of menace she exuded intensified even further until the Goa'uld could barely think. A few tense moments passed in which very air felt heavy and full of malice. Then the black-eyed woman's hand came forward to cup the Goa'uld's face, and she smiled a terrifyingly dark smile.
“That was your last chance. I'm going to enjoy this.”
Then there was blackness, and the Goa'uld felt no more.
As Dawn slumped into unconsciousness, Daniel watched warily as Willow's features slowly shifted back into their normal configuration. The black leached out of her hair and eyes, while her veins faded back beneath her skin. When Willow had begun to change, he had found himself frozen in place a half dozen feet behind her by the sheer aura of menace pouring forth from his friend. He had never before felt anything like it. What was she?
Turning towards him, while she held Dawn's weight awkwardly against her chest, Willow saw the wary expression on Daniel's face, and the incongruous expression of concern on her face shifted into confusion, as she cocked her head to the side.
“Um, Daniel? Why are you looking at me like that?”
The archaeologist was not quite sure what to say in reply. How do you tell a friend that she just scared ten years off your life after she's gone back to cutely frowning at you like a befuddled puppy dog.
Willow's eyes widened.
“Wait! You weren't caught up in my illusion, were you? I mean, it was only supposed to extend a few feet around me!”
“Yeah. I mean,” the witch began to look choked up at this point, “once I realized that the Goa'uld was in Dawnie, well, I didn't know how to get it out, and I figured it probably wouldn't respond if I asked nicely, so I decided to try my whole 'Willow the bad witch' schtick, and see if I could talk it out.”
The red-head frowned.
“Didn't work though. Oh, Dawnie.”
“Y-you... that was an illusion.”
“Yep,” the witch replied, smiling weakly. “Sorry about that, but I figured that it would have to be pretty convincing to sucker a Goa'uld.”
Daniel began to calm down. Willow was still under control. She had not just gone off the deep end. She had just been trying to trick the Goa'uld.
The red-haired Wiccan frowned again, looking down at Dawn's unconscious body.
“Hopefully, we can do something for her back on Earth, but first, we'll need to get out of here. I lost my camera with the gate addresses on it, but can you still remember the seven symbols we need to get us from here to Earth?”
“Yes. But it's a long way from here to the gate room, if we can even find the way. And I don't think Ra's exactly going to let us peacefully go on about our business.”
Willow smiled a bit wearily.
“I wasn't exactly planning on asking him for permission. Teleporting large groups, even over short distances, is still a bit tricky for me, and, the closer they are, the less likely it is I'll screw this up and accidentally leave someone behind, so can you get Vi and Sha're in here? We should probably all try to be in physical contact when I move us to the gate room.”
Daniel simply nodded.
He did not like the idea of abandoning the Abydonians, leaving Ra with all their gate addresses or taking Sha're from her people, but they needed to regroup somewhere without Ra's soldiers attacking them every few minutes. Even more importantly, they needed to see what could be done for Dawn.
The ancient Egyptians had known of no way to remove a Goa'uld from its host, but medical technology was considerably more advanced in modern times. He did not want to think that the vivacious young woman who had brought him to the Watcher's Council and fearlessly led their team through the Stargate might be gone.
Willow was right. They needed to regroup for now.
As Willow's chanted spell reached its climax, the very air seemed to shimmer and crackle around Daniel, but he hardly noticed the change in the air. His thoughts remained focused upon the self-proclaimed God who had enslaved a people and stolen a young woman's life. Daniel Jackson could forgive more than most, but he doubted that he would ever forgive Ra for what had been done here.
The archaeologist silently promised himself that they would come back here someday soon, and then there would be a reckoning.
AN: This chapter was a trial at times. Fortunately, the trial is over, and the next chapter should be far more enjoyable to write. I hope that you enjoyed reading this chapter more than I enjoyed writing it, and hope you'll let me know which parts you liked and which parts did not really work for you.