It went a bit west from there and turned into 'Sha're saves the day'. For the purpose of the story I'm ignoring the canon element of Amonet sleeping through Sha're's pregnancy.
Searing, shredding, fire consumes me.
I scream. My body dances in a death jig not of my choosing. But death will not come. Torment is my world. Beyond my voice, another cries out in fear greater than my own.
It is all there is.
Then it is gone.
The devil-light fades, its crushing grip on me gone. My knees quake and I drop on my rear. The dark cavern rings with my tortured breaths. My hand, still pressed to my belly finds a flutter of life: the babe yet lives.
But something is missing.
There is silence, not in the cavern but in my mind.
Silence, its like I’ve not known for the passing of three seasons.
She is gone.
Dead. Dead. Dead.
The echoes of my cries fill the cave with lost music.
Stone grinds behind me. I crawl toward the gleam of light, following a tendril of crisp, fresh air.
I drag myself away from the nightmare of my past, birthed into the future.
Wholly consumed with my new freedom, I gave no thought to what would await me in the light. Sky: stretching on forever. Cold air layered with the dying warmth of a season of heat. Wind pushing briskly past me snatched my—her delicate skirts and danced them around my legs. Ridiculous, immodest things I would never have to wear again.
Dead. Dead. Dead.
I raised my hands to the skies, felt freedom rain down on me. There certainly was a lot of sky. I appeared to stand at a mountain’s crest. Uncertain, I looked around – and found myself staring at two women. They stared back at me.
They are not Goa'uld.
I do not know what told me this, but I knew its truth in my heart. And yet one felt… familiar. She too had once borne a demon.
‘Hail and welcome.’ The friendly-faced one dressed in appealing clothes of the land smiled. ‘I am Gairwyn.’
My voice, so recently soaring, departed me.
‘This is Kendra.’ Gairwyn nodded to the dark beauty dressed in garments the colour of blood. That one continued to look at me as if I had dropped from the heavens. Perhaps I had.
‘Our men told me of a woman who arrived on our world and was taken by Thor’s Hammer,’ Gairwyn said. ‘We thought to come bid you welcome. Kendra—’ She glanced at her silent companion. ‘Kendra knew the way to this place.’
‘Your demon is dead. Gone from you, forever. Such is the gift of the true god, Thor.’ Kendra announced this solemnly.
I wanted to say my name, anything, but words clogged my throat. All that had happened since Colonel Jack had returned to Abydos: being taken, chosen and invaded by the demon Amonet; starring down at Danyel and feeling the demon’s contempt as I cried out for him; seeing Skaara battle the demon inside him, sometimes so close yet I was unable to comfort him… Memories whirled through my head and brought along other urgencies – terrible, terrible events that would occur unless I stopped them. Stopped him.
Finally my voice returned.
‘I must go.’
Of course, it was no simple matter to leave Cimmeria. We journeyed many days through this beautiful land. Gairwyn and Kendra did not press me for my story, but gradually I told my tale – how a former lover of Apophis had told Amonet of a place of great wealth. That it was hidden by the lie of Cimmeria. Eager to aid her ‘beloved’ Amonet snuck away from Apophis, hoping to surprise him on her return with great riches.
My hands ever kept contact with the life inside me; it did not take the women long to notice.
‘You are with child.’ Kendra broke one of her long silences as we strode along a channelled waterway. ‘Is it the demon lord’s? Best be rid of it. I can help you – I have some things in my home.’
‘Na-nay! Never! The child is not demon spawned.’ I backed away from her. ‘This is the child of my husband, my Danyel. His gift of the night before I was taken.’ Amonet had not interfered with the child when she discovered it. Instead, she had taken Apophis to her—our—her bed, later encouraged him to believe it his child, for some vile purpose I could not grasp.
‘I meant no offence.’ Sadness graced her lovely face. ‘The demons leave their mark in many ways.’
I wondered if she had been forced to bear a child not of her choosing, but did not ask. Some hurts are best left in the heart’s keeping.
Our journey down the mountain took many days, stopping often to rest and eat… and breathe. They did not pry, but in small pieces I told them of my life on Abydos, of my brave Danyel, my dear father, my poor, lost brother.
‘Will you return to Abydos, Sha’re?’ asked Gairwyn, one eve as we sat with the campfire warming our faces. ‘Please know you are ever welcome in our village, for as long as you wish.’
Kendra nodded, silent as she most often was. Did she never wish to return to her homeworld?
‘I cannot. The Stargate will be blocked. My Danyel would have done that to prevent the demons’ return.’ And yet, he did not stay. He travelled with O'Neill, looking for us, and being an extreme annoyance to Apophis.
‘Your husband’s world, then?’
‘No, that way too is barred.’ Apophis had lost valuable men attempting to breach the Tau’ri gate. When that failed, he set other plans in motion.
‘Then, where would you go?’
To the one place I did not wish ever to see again. To do the one thing that would ensure my child had a father, and a home. ‘Apophis plans to destroy my husband’s home. I must stop him.’
It sounded simple, like planning a journey to one of the mountain villages behind Nagada. You must wear your thick shawl, Sha’uri. Mother’s voice reached out from happier days. She loved to travel back to the village of her birth, always carried on a finely decorated mastage as was due the wife of Nagada’s Headman and daughter of Safia’s consul.
‘You cannot mean to return to the Etins!’ Gairwyn’s kind face hid the horror in her voice.
I could raise but a faint smile. ‘He has vowed to destroy my Danyel’s planet. Can you imagine? He will do it, even though his sips are few.’ I could not hold her gaze. I shrugged and stared down at my feet: warm in a pair of Gairwyn’s boots. ‘He does not know his mate is gone.’ I knew where he readied his ship. All I needed was a moment to get close, before he could realise. Amonet no longer lurked within me. I would destroy him. Simple.
‘It is a great deed to protect one’s family. But you will risk much. Think of your unborn babe – would it not be wise to wait until it is born?’
‘Apophis moves now. I may already be too late. I must try.’
Our journey to Gairwyn’s village took ten days – wonderful days of freedom, honest food and caring companions. Several times Gairwyn asked me to stay until the child was born. Kendra never challenged my determination to stop the demon Apophis. The times I talked of the Goa'uld she would retreat into the shell made of her own abuse. I did not dwell on the story.
On a fine warm day I stood before the Stargate, dressed in Amonet’s wretched clothes once more, the scent of coming rain heavy on the wind.
‘Know you shall always have a home here, Sha’re, should you ever need it.’ Gairwyn smiled her sweet smile and hugged me close. ‘Go with Thor and he will guide your journey.’
I hugged her tightly, feeling as if I were leaving a friend of many years, instead of a few days. ‘If I cannot kill the demon I will return. My child would be happy to grow up here.’ Myself? I knew I would never rest until my heart’s love, my Danyel, was in my arms once more.
I turned to Kendra. ‘My thanks for your care and your wisdom.’
She inclined her head, her body stiff but her face told of a decision whose deciding left her torn. Abruptly, she thrust a small bag into my hands. ‘Take this…’
Astonished, I stared at a Goa'uld healing tool. They were rare; it was not an item Amonet had ever carried but I knew how they worked, knew I could wield it as Kendra did. A precious gift, beyond value.
A distant rumble of thunder cheered the uncertainty from her face. ‘Thor gives his blessings, Sha’re of Nagada. Walk in his light and be safe.’
I squeezed her hands, my words of thanks inadequate for her sacrifice.
Clothed in Amonet’s ridiculous robes, the healer safe in my pocket and her ribbon of death wound hatefully round my arm, I dialled the address for Nun - Apophis’ military base – and stepped through.
Amonet had been to Nun several times, a decoration on Apophis’ arm as he gathered Jaffa, weapons and ships to attack the Tau’ri homeworld. Now, the air was electric with urgency. Troops and servants rushed from supply wagons to the landing base, almost hidden under the might of Apophis’ Ha’tak. The base next to it stood empty. Why was the ship, given to Klorel with such celebration only weeks ago, not here? Having lost his only other Ha’tak to Heru’ur, Apophis had depended on Klorel’s ship for the conquest of the Tau’ri.
I hid my apprehension and strode toward the Ha’tak: Queen Amonet returned to Lord Apophis.
Servants and slaves scuttled out of my way and I neither cast them a glance nor altered my course. In my heart I apologised to them and could only hope that my actions of this day would free them too.
The Jaffa guarding the entrance to the Light Portal nearly snapped their spines as they stood to attention at my approach. I placed myself on the dais and flicked a hand at one. He engaged the beam and I ascended into the Ha’tak. If they wondered why their goddess arrived unannounced and unattended they did not question. That was ever the first lesson taught a Jaffa.
Piled boxes and sacks lay heaped on the portal room floor. I stared ahead and moved quickly into the hallway. Despite the urgency of the servants there were few Jaffa about. A squad of pilots marched past once, and a few guards stood sentinel at key doorways. The secret Apophis worked so hard to keep was obvious here: the number of his Jaffa were dangerously low, a result of several well-placed attacks by Heru’ur and the purges instigated by Apophis among his troops after the betrayal of the Sholva. Many had died in those days, many more had vanished: eliminated by his loyal men, Apophis had said. Amonet thought they too, inspired by Teal'c, had turned their backs on their god.
Announcements from the Peltak told me the ship would launch very soon. I knew Apophis would be in his private sanctum, as he always was before a battle. Even Amonet did not accompany him there.
I used the internal portal to ascend to the Peltak level. The light faded, the rings retracted – and there he was, striding down the hallway toward me.
Unprepared, I tucked my right hand behind my back and willed the fire jewel to life.
‘Amonet!’ Apophis slowed, delight quickly turning to puzzlement: she was supposed to be safe on the homeworld. ‘Why are you here my love?’
One word from me would alert him. I ducked my head and focused on the warmth building in my hand.
‘Beloved?’ He walked closer. ‘Did you come to wish Us success? Our victory will be sung through the ages – the Day the Tau’ri…’ He faltered, frowned, ‘… died.’
The word hung between us, accusation, realisation, truth.
‘No—’ Strangled whisper became anguish. ‘No. Amonet!’
I raised my hand, red fire flaring toward him. He threw himself aside, quicker than thought, his own palm raised and shooting death at me. The beams met, sent showers of sparks to char the walls. I dodged his fire and shot again, singeing his scalp.
One more. I reached for him, he struck back and his beam hit my hand.
Sparks showered my face, pain lanced my hand and streaked up my arm. I staggered back, confusion and anguish blurring my senses. Beyond the cloud of smoke, Apophis cried out, agony in his voice: the energy created by the meeting of our weapons had fallen back upon him. He writhed on the floor in torment. My weapon hung broken and useless from my burning hand – so close to my goal and I could not finish it. Marching feet sounded down the hall, and spurred me to move
There would be another time.
I fled, blessing the rigidity of the Goa'uld who would build a hundred Ha’taks to the same design and never change a thing. One curve of the hall away from the demon, I reached for a raised symbol on a wall, one feather among so many, but this one turned at my touch and opened a hidden doorway. I nearly fell through it and pushed it shut. A warren of narrow passages hid behind the glamour of the public halls.
I staggered along, my hand cradled on top of my child’s womb, found an intersecting corridor, then a stairway curving down and down into a dim-lit haven.
My hand was agony: torn, bleeding, shards of crystal embedded within, but no less was the pain of knowing I had left the demon alive. I could not fail – my husband’s life and all the Tau’ri depended on the death of Apophis.
Huddled in a dark, dusty corner that had seen no life since its builders, I eased out the jagged crystal from my hand. Blood pulsed out in a matched dance with the thuds of my heart. The child kicked, once, twice, his displeasure clear at being jostled so. When the wound was clean I brought forth the healer.
‘Every blessing of your god Thor upon you, dear Kendra.’ My whisper echoed up into the darkness, reaching to this strange god I could only hope.
The healer flared to life, its golden touch soothing the pain, restoring my hand and spirit together. Once healed, I settled back, desperate to rest for a short time before the hunt began again.
When I woke I was sliding across the floor, pushed by some force from my resting place to the opposite wall. My knees and hands banged painfully on the rough surface. I slid around, wondering what was happening.
A deep rumbling echoed in my bones: of course. The ship had entered the extreme acceleration of interplanetary travel. It had never affected me so when I was a prisoner of the demon Amonet, but I had seen servants thrown from their feet. Apophis thought it amusing.
‘Challyat.’ Sustained by the food and drink given me by Gairwyn, I had slept too long. Apophis had surely healed himself in his sarcophagus and now resumed his journey to the Tau’ri homeworld. I had delayed him. It was not enough.
I hauled myself to my feet, surprised by aches all over my body. While Amonet possessed me, I had felt no discomfort – in my body at least. I welcomed the pain and used it to push me back to the stairway and up to the light.
Four turnings of the stair brought me to a level where supplies were stored. I slid the door open and peeked out. Mercifully, the hall was empty. I walked cautiously around several turnings to find the room I needed. Within was a treasure cave of weapons and objects used by Apophis’ Jaffa. I took a zat’nik’tel, several Tacluchnatagamunturons and smoke makers. And a communications ball. Apophis was not the only one committed to the attack. I had to know…
Concentrate on where you are now. All else is after.
I was about to leave when a bright flash of metal caught my eye. Pushed behind a crate of armour was a sack of weapons: tribute to Apophis from a world he claimed and had visited months ago. The primitive weapons had earned his scorn, but now I gave my thanks to that noble chieftain, so proud of his people’s skill. A slim sword bound by an ebony scabbard called to me, its blade so finely sharp it sliced my fingernail with a touch. A very worthy weapon, one my Danyel had taught me to use, a lifetime ago. It was lighter than the weapons we used on Abydos in the rare times we needed to fight off the vicious nomad tribes, come down from their mountains to steal food, women, children or animals.
Feeling as if Danyel were by my side, I slipped back to the hidden stairway and began to climb up. My breaths echoed around me in the stillness. Carrying the weapons as well as the child was quickly draining my strength, and I had to rest many times. When I peeked out into the hallways as I passed, I saw very few people. All of the servants except for Apophis’s personal slaves would have departed before the ship left Nun. When on an attack, the Jaffa would see to all needs, even cooking meals in the huge kitchens far below. The Jaffa I did see were going about their business – no one was searching for Apophis’ attacker: he would never admit to his men that he had been injured; certainly nobody would ever know that his goddess no longer resided in her host. He would have gone to his sarcophagus to ‘rest’ before the great attack, and after he would do what he always did – and I would be there.
If I could get up these steps…
Halfway up, the sudden deceleration of the ship threw me into the wall. Dread filled me: we had arrived at the Tau’ri homeworld. Earth.
I reached the final turning in the steps. How long my journey had taken I did not know. Time seemed to both stand still in the oppressing gloom of the hidden stair, and bear down on me with its rapid passage. Every moment brought us closer to the death of Danyel’s Earth.
My legs trembled with weariness, my back was a pillar of fire. At least the child slept, but its imminent birthing pressed me with another urgency.
I opened the door into a room of great opulence: Apophis’ bedchamber. On this topmost level of the Ha’tak were only this room, the Peltak, the Stargate and beam transporter, and his sanctuary, where all but the false gods were refused entry.
Zat’nik’tel in one hand, unsheathed sword in the other, I crept across the chamber to the thick wall hangings, which hid access to the sanctuary.
I heard him. Low chants, a monotonous drone in an ancient dialect of the Goa'uld, a ritual soul-cleansing he undertook before every battle. It reinforced his divine purpose, he said. In reality, the concentration it required closed his senses to all else. He could not detect me coming so near to him.
One charge from the zat’nik’tel had him writhing on the ground. I emerged into the flickering light of the braziers. I wanted him to see who it was that ended his wretched life.
Fear, terror, fury and pain twisted his face. ‘No! You cannot!’ he spat.
I raised the weapon. ‘You will join your mate in the underworld, and never again walk in the light.’
‘No!’ Pleas tangled his tongue and were lost in the blue fire of my weapon.
The body lay still. I raised the sword, and in the next instant the demon burst forth from the host. I swung my sword and cut the beast in two. It flopped on the floor, then stilled.
I aimed the zat’nik’tel and fired once, twice, three times.
Forever dead and gone.
The host’s body – already showing signs of its true age – I left to be discovered by the Jaffa. ‘May the true gods speed your journey to your loved ones,’ I whispered.
A fine tremor shook my hands as I sheathed the sword. Apophis had made my departure from this vessel easy. Now above the Tau’ri world, I would use the escape capsule nearby. Then I would find my husband. The attack would not proceed once Apophis’ body was found – Klorel was not strong enough to take command of Jaffa presented with the ultimate truth: their ‘god’ was mortal.
The hallway leading from his chamber to the Peltak was deserted. I passed the room containing the beam transport, only to hear it activate. Quickly, I returned to the demon’s chamber and hid.
Footsteps of several people sounded, moving with stealth. I peered around the door and my heart skipped with shock. The Sholva, Teal'c, exited the transport room. Weapon drawn, he crept toward the Peltak. After him came a Jaffa, then O'Neill! Then the pale woman I had seen in the Gateroom on Abydos. Following them came Bra’tac – trusted former First Prime. Were they his prisoners?
No. They co-operated with him – why? And where was Danyel? Did he no longer travel with O'Neill? His absence halted my call to O'Neill. Perhaps the Sholva had turned again. If they walked with Bra’tac I could not trust them.
And now they paused at the two escape capsules. Teal'c raised his zat’nik’tel and disabled both. My mouth opened in objection. Then they moved on, out of sight. Uncertainty gripped me for a time, but my stirring child woke me to the life that I must now place above all others.
I walked quietly to the transport room, activated the beam and was swept away to Klorel’s ship.
Bodies of Jaffa greeted me. O'Neill had been busy here. I paused, but could hear nothing beyond the door. There were three more dead Jaffa in the hall… and a long streak of blood leading from a pool by the door, away across the floor, as if someone had dragged themselves…
The escape capsules lay to the left. The blood trail headed right, toward that other most precious thing owned by the System Lords.
I followed the blood.
Barely had I taken six steps when Klorel appeared around a corner. We were both surprised, and stood staring at each other. I felt the zat’nik’tel in my hand, the sword dangling from my belt: knew I could use neither.
Klorel raised his hand, the ribbon jewel gleaming in halting pulses. He could sense Amonet was gone, but I wondered how much he would care. Maternal affection had never been in her heart and she saw him as a rival for Apophis’s affection.
The jewel faded, flared, faded again. His face twisted with fury – an expression never seen on my sweet-natured brother. He tried again, failed, and I could see a great battle raged within him. Skaara was putting up a wonderful resistance. Klorel barred his teeth and spat a word, voice filled with hate, malice and anger. But the word… oh, how I knew that was not what Klorel had intended to say.
Safe. The word we had used as children at play, running endless games of hie-me-home, until the goal of our mother’s skirts was reached and ‘ahedj’ declared one of us the winner.
I bit my lip to contain a giggle at the confusion on Klorel’s face. Ignorant of our tongue he didn’t know what he’d said, could never know its meaning. He clenched his hand over the useless weapon and stalked away.
‘Skaara.’ I called softly after him.
The search for the injured one whose blood drew me away from my escape did not take long. One more curve of the hall, and I found him, slumped against the door of the sarcophagus room, vainly reaching for the opening key.
I think I had known, from the first glimpse of blood smeared so painfully, stubbornly on the floor – I knew it would be him.
Anger filled my heart as I walked the last distance that separated us. Why had O'Neill left him, so hurt, so alone? Were they not comrades? Did the Tau’ri always leave a person to die alone and in agony?
His tortured gasp for air ripped the anger away, and there was nothing left but love. I caught his hand as it slid down the wall.
‘Let me, my love. I am here now. You are safe.’
Bewildered, pained eyes-of-sky stared at me.
I kissed his bloodied fingers. ‘My Danyel.’
‘… knew you’d… be here at… the end…’ His words were so soft, the will to speak them almost gone. ‘Sorry… sorry… couldn’t… save… you…’
‘No, my Danyel. You did save me. I would never have had such strength without your love.’
‘Sha—’ His head thumped against the door. His body was shutting down.
I held his neck and supported him as the door opened at my touch. ‘You will live, my Danyel. We all shall live. I am free of the demon…’ I grasped his clothing and slid him across the floor, grateful for the Goa'uld liking of polish. The sarcophagus stood open, waiting. ‘Our last night together gifted us with a child.’ I propped him sitting against the gold box, wrapped his arms about my neck, my nose nearly buried in the bloody mess of his chest. I took the leather cinch about his waist in my hands and heaved him upright.
A faint cry of pain was all he could muster. Cradling his head, I leaned him back until his descent was unstoppable and he slipped into the sarcophagus. ‘Our child will be born free, and he will have both his father and mother to love him.’ I straightened his limbs and kissed his sweet lips. ‘I shall be here when you wake, my husband.’
‘I had the strangest dream.’
I had retreated to the door to watch for Jaffa, so Danyel did not see me as the sarcophagus opened. I wiped my eyes dry and turned to him, my heart so full words would not come. He sat up, hands touching the healed flesh. They stilled.
He turned, saw me, tried to scramble out, slipped – and fell into my arms.
‘Oh god, oh— oh—’
He crushed me to him. Those strong arms surrounded me as if we had never been parted. His lips brushed my ear, his scent filled my senses and my eyes overflowed with the happiest tears.
‘Is it you? Sha’re?’ Danyel pulled back enough to gaze into my eyes.
‘The demon is gone, Danyel. I am free,’ I croaked.
His mouth hung open in that dearest remembered way. He looked down at my belly, bumping him as if to make its presence known – and then he kissed me. My whole being filled with his presence: desperation, grief, joy, desire and heartbreaking need. I met his touch with my own, not wanting ever to stop. Our tears mingled and we laughed and sobbed as one whole, finally reunited.
Suddenly, Danyel stopped, fear chasing the joy from his face. ‘We have to go, now!’
‘I planned to use the escape capsule to drop to Earth and then search for you,’ I said, as he clasped my hand and pulled me to the door.
‘We set explosives, it’s going to blow any second—drop? Wha…?’ Surprise and admiration lit his beautiful face. ‘How about we take the easy way?’
His eyes lingered on the child, then we were running, down the hall, past the escape pods to the Stargate, sitting in solitary glory. Danyel entered an address with a bare pause for thought. I looked back, saw no sign of Klorel. This was the direction he had come – I could only hope he had departed. I knew I would see Skaara again.
My hair tickled me, caught in the breeze of the Stargate. It opened its way to the stars for us. My Danyel, my child and I walked together, toward our freedom, our future, our life.
To the downfall of all despotic, demonic rulers everywhere, this story is humbly dedicated.
- Current Mood: cold