Sky has been showing re-runs of Stargate: SG-1 recently and it has inspired me to write fic; a crossover with the D&D PC game Neverwinter Nights. It’s in the ‘Tabula Avatar’ universe but 2 years after that story (3 years before ‘A Plague of Serpents) and 1,200 miles to the north. In ‘Stargate: SG1’ continuity it would come some time after Season 5 episode 14 ‘48 Hours’. This doesn't tally with a strict comparison of the broadcast dates of the two shows so I'm assuming that Stargate: SG-1 is set slightly in the future and that ‘48 Hours’ takes place, not in March 2002 when it was first broadcast, but actually in March 2004.
This part is 6,000 words, rating PG, but the following parts will be R for violence so there isn’t much point in reading this one if you don’t read R-rated stories.
Summary: SG-1 go through the Stargate and find themselves emerging from an Illefarn song portal, north of Neverwinter, shortly after the Wailing Death plague. An encounter with a young ranger girl and her giant companion leads SG-1 into a nightmare world of magic, monsters, and sudden and brutal death.
Debt Of Blood
Part One: Tau’ri on Toril
Colonel Jack O’Neill scratched his nose and looked at the Stargate. “So, a new planet. Any Goa’uld presence?”
“We don’t know yet,” General Hammond said. “The MALP only went through two minutes ago.”
Daniel Jackson frowned as he looked at the gate symbols. “That pattern was supposed to be a null. Blocked, buried, or destroyed.”
“Well, it isn’t any longer.” Jack pointed at the active Stargate that was incontrovertible evidence that the gate at the other end was functional. “I guess somebody must have dug it up.”
“Hmm. That implies a tech level high enough to permit leisure time and scope for intellectual curiosity,” Major Samantha Carter remarked.
“Or they just dug it up by accident while they were looking for gold or something,” Jack suggested. He turned to General Hammond. “How come we found out it was back in action, anyway?”
Hammond gestured in the direction of the senior chevron technician. “Harriman was re-running Major Carter’s cold dialing program on old null codes for training drills. This time one worked.”
“Do we know where it goes?” Daniel asked.
“Somewhere designated P3A-219, that’s all,” Hammond said. “We’ll know more when the MALP starts transmitting.”
“Receiving signal now, sir,” Harriman reported. “Putting it up on screen.”
The monitor displayed a picture that was clear but that shook as the robot exploration vehicle traversed the terrain. It was a snowy landscape with a scattering of fir trees. There was no sign of human habitation but marks in the snow could have been footprints.
“Oxygen content 21.02 per cent,” Harriman read out. “Nitrogen 78.08, carbon dioxide 0.036, argon 0.81. Atmospheric pressure 14.67 psi. Low levels of background radiation. As close a match for Earth’s atmosphere as I’ve seen. Just a touch more oxygen and the merest hint less carbon dioxide.”
“Possibly pre-industrial,” Sam mused.
“Gravity?” Jack enquired.
“0. 993 g,” Harriman replied. “The temperature is fluctuating around one or two degrees above freezing.”
“Warm clothing required but nothing extreme,” Jack said. “It’s not exactly Hawaii but it doesn’t sound too bad.”
“The MALP is right out in the open,” Sam commented. “That’s not what I would have expected if the gate had been buried.”
“That’s a good point,” said Daniel. “Turn the MALP around, would you please, and let’s take a look at the gate.”
“Yes, Doctor Jackson,” Harriman said, and obeyed.
“Hold it!” Jack, who had been lounging with his hip against the edge of a control console, snapped alert and stood up straight.
The camera was pointing at a corpse.
Daniel adjusted his glasses. “Is that a unas?” he asked.
Sam frowned. “There are similarities,” she said, “but the brow ridges are much less pronounced and what I can see of the nose looks much more human. Visible ears, too, and it’s a lot hairier than a unas. Less reptilian.”
“That arrow sticking out of its back probably killed it,” Jack observed. “I’d have thought a unas would have been tougher than that.” His forehead creased to match Sam’s. “Hey, could it be a cross between a unas and a human?”
Sam shook her head. “Not a chance, Colonel. Total genetic incompatibility,” she said. “The Goa’uld could have bred the unas to produce a race more like humans, though. That would fit.”
“Trading off some of the power and resilience for greater tool-using capability and the expressiveness that they seem to prize in us,” Daniel added. “It’s possible.”
“I don’t see them fighting with bows and arrows if the Goa’uld are still in charge there,” Jack said.
“Unless the Goa’uld at the top stays in his palace and lets the slaves fend for themselves,” Daniel suggested. “After all, someone must have dug up the Stargate.”
“Yeah.” Jack nodded. “I don’t think we’ll learn anything more from the dead guy. Turn the MALP round the rest of the way, Chief.”
The camera view swung as the MALP turned to face in the direction from which it had come. The planet’s Stargate came into view. It stood in plain sight on top of a low hill.
Daniel gave a low whistle. “If they dug that up,” he said, “it must have been quite a burial and one heck of a digging job.”
“Right,” said Sam. “No way has that ever been buried.” She pursed her lips. “That means that, if it was an inactive one, they repaired it.”
“Look for the DHD,” Jack told the technician sergeant. “I think we have a mission.”
“Yes, sir!” Harriman maneuvered the MALP back along its original route. “I think I see a DHD, sir,” he reported. “I’ll move in closer.”
“What’s that?” Daniel tilted his head to one side.
“What’s what? I don’t see…” Jack began, and then he noticed the same thing as Daniel. Not something on the screen, but something on the MALP’s indistinct sound relay. Half obscured by the whine of the robot’s motors but just distinguishable. Singing. Several voices singing at once, raucously, more like a military unit sounding off than a choir.
“That sounds vaguely familiar,” Sam commented.
“Yeah,” Daniel agreed. “I can’t place it, but I’ve definitely heard it before.”
Jack nodded. “On one of the Classic Rock stations, I guess,” he said. “It’s Twisted Sister. We’re Not Gonna Take It. Only not in English.”
“Twisted Sister?” General Hammond’s eyebrows climbed high. “What’s that?”
“A metal band from the Eighties,” Jack explained. He glanced at Daniel, saw the archaeologist’s eyebrows climbing as high as Hammond’s, and shrugged. “Hey, I was young once.”
“I do not understand, O’Neill,” Teal’c said, breaking his silence for the first time. “What is a twisted sister? Is a metal band a form of ribbon device?”
“A bunch of guys who made music, well some call it music, twenty years ago,” Jack said. “Whoever is singing out there on that planet is singing one of their songs.”
“Then they have been in contact with the Tau’ri,” Teal’c deduced.
“Damn right,” Jack confirmed, “and we’d better find out what else they picked up besides a rock tune.” He looked at the General. “Right, sir?”
Hammond nodded. “Definitely. Doctor Jackson, can you identify the language?”
“It’s not Egyptian,” Daniel said, “or anything similar. European or Asian, I think. It should be easy enough to pin it down. After all, Jack knows what the words mean.”
“I only remember the chorus,” Jack said. “Chief, can you get a picture of whoever’s doing the singing?”
“I’ll try, sir.” Harriman brought the MALP around in another turn. A figure appeared on the screen, close to the vehicle, and approaching fast.
“Human,” Jack said, “and kind of wild looking.”
The man was a tattooed savage, naked to the waist, with his head shaved except for a top-knot of black hair with twin feathers stuck through it. Despite the somewhat Native American style of his garb he had the facial features of a white man, with a bristling mustache across his lip, and his skin was pale with little evidence of a tan. He bore a large shield on one arm and wielded a battle-axe with his other hand. He closed with the MALP and brought down the axe.
The monitor flashed once and went blank. There was the crashing sound of another axe blow and then the loudspeakers fell silent.
“Oh, crap,” Jack said. “Looks like the natives aren’t friendly.”
“He might have thought the MALP was some sort of monster,” Sam suggested. “He was obviously a primitive.”
“That doesn’t tie in with reactivating the Stargate,” Daniel said. “I postulate a technologically sophisticated elite, probably small in number, probably ruling over a larger group of primitives. The top of the social pyramid may well be a Goa’uld.”
“That guy would have stood out like a sore thumb on Earth,” Jack pointed out.
“Indeed,” said Teal’c. “I am inconspicuous in comparison.”
“So it had to be one of the elite who was here,” Daniel deduced. “Quite possibly a Goa’uld.”
“Doctor Jackson, work on the language,” Hammond said. “The mission is on. Harriman, shut down the Gate. Briefing at oh-eight hundred hours.”
SG-1 emerged from the gate on P3A-219 and, as soon as they’d recovered from the momentary disorientation of gate travel, they surveyed their surroundings and moved to secure the site.
Daniel went straight to the DHD. “Oh boy,” he said. Sam scurried to join him.
Jack groaned. “What is it?”
“These aren’t the normal symbols,” Sam said. “They don’t look like anything I’ve seen before. The ones on the gate itself are the same. Completely non-standard.”
“But you can decipher them, Daniel, right?” Jack said. “Please tell me you can decipher them.”
“I guess it must be a local script,” Daniel said. He bit his lip. “Uh, if I can find other examples, yeah, I can decipher it, no problem. With just this to go on… maybe, but it will take a long time.”
“A long time? Just what do you mean by that? Hours? Days?”
“Months, maybe years,” Daniel said.
Jack’s mouth turned down at the corners. “I guess this time it isn’t your fault that we’re stranded on an alien planet. For once.”
“Well, we know there must be a way off the planet,” Daniel said. “Someone from here visited Earth.”
“Or we’re only twenty light years from Earth and they’ve just started picking up MTV signals from the Eighties,” Sam added pessimistically.
“Oh, I don’t think that’s likely,” Daniel said. “There aren’t any Earth-like planets that close. Uh, there aren’t, are there?”
“Just decipher the symbols, Daniel,” Jack said. “I’d kind of like to be able to go home at the end of the mission. Would a naquadah reactor and an over-ride work?”
Sam shook her head. “I don't think so, sir. Not unless we can work out what at least some of the symbols mean.”
“We must seek out the examples you need, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said.
Right,” said Jack. “Okay, we’ll take a look at what’s left of the MALP and then move out.”
The wreckage of the robot vehicle was plainly visible from the top of the mound on which the Stargate stood. SG-1 walked down and Sam examined the remains.
“The motor is beyond repair,” she reported. “The manipulator arm is smashed and the camera unit is missing altogether. Maybe the primitive decapitated it and took the ‘head’ as a trophy. Or else someone more sophisticated salvaged it for the lenses in the camera. They’d be useful to any tech level above Medieval.”
“No way of knowing without finding the person who took it,” Jack said. “Can you get it working as a radio link and a homing beacon?”
“If I can get the antennae reattached,” Sam said. She worked on the robot probe for a couple of minutes. “That should do it,” she said. “It wouldn’t stand up to operational conditions but it will function as a passive relay.”
“So we can find it again if we get lost, and send messages home explaining how we’re stuck here,” Jack said. “Better than nothing, I guess. Okay, we’d better get moving.”
The girl appeared seemingly out of nowhere. She stepped out from behind a tree that was too slender to have concealed her from their sight. Her clothing offered a possible explanation for her apparent invisibility; she was clad in pants and a shirt of dappled brown and green, with a brown leather jerkin over the shirt, and a cloak of white cloth covered with a pattern of brown and green leaf shapes. The overall effect was well suited to camouflage in the snow-dusted forest. She held a short recurve bow, with an arrow nocked to the string, and although it wasn’t pointed at any member of SG-1 it was evident that she was ready to bring it to the aim in an instant.
Three P-90s and a staff weapon swung to cover her. Jack glanced back over his shoulder, faced her again, and then cast another glance backwards.
The young woman spoke. Her tone conveyed the impression that she was asking a question but her words were incomprehensible.
“We come in peace?” Jack ventured. He shot another glance over his shoulder. He somehow doubted that the woman was alone and suspected that she had at least one companion who had remained out of sight. Probably behind them, or off to one side, because that’s where he would have positioned the rest of SG-1 if he’d come out of hiding to confront strangers.
The woman warrior shook her head and spoke again.
“What’s she saying, Daniel?” Jack asked.
“I’m not sure,” Daniel admitted. “Germanic roots, like I worked out from the singing, with Celtic influences and… ah. There’s a Finno-Ugrian element in there too. Uh, as close as I can get it, she asked us, ‘Are you not-winter or are you… something else?’ The last bit was some word I couldn’t translate, sounded like ‘Luskan’, probably a name or maybe a nationality.”
“Are you not winter? Huh?” Jack’s eyes narrowed. He took another look at the woman’s clothes. Thick woven pants, fur trim at the top of her boots, and a white fur stole swathing her neck above the leather tunic. Dressed for warmth as well as for camouflage. “Maybe she was saying ‘Hey, aren’t you cold?’ or something like.”
“No, the way she said it was more like a sort of ‘friend or foe’ challenge.” Daniel ventured a response in a mash-up of German and Old Welsh.
The woman grinned and nodded. She said a phrase in reply.
“What did you tell her?” Jack asked.
“I have no idea,” Daniel said. “Well, I think I told her we were strangers in this land and we don’t know what ‘not-winter’ is, but then again I might have said that we are not the droids she’s looking for.”
“Why would you tell her that, Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c asked. “She is not an Imperial Stormtrooper.”
Jack checked his six again. When he looked back at the young woman she was smiling. It was an honest, friendly, smile that lit up her whole face. Jack had learnt through hard experience that you couldn’t go by appearances but he was inclined to believe that this woman was trustworthy. Her eyes, brown as far as Jack could tell at this distance, seemed to sparkle as she smiled. A fringe of red-brown hair could be seen under the hood of her cloak. She called out, louder than her speech to them, and made an obvious point of lowering her bow.
“She’s telling someone to come out,” Daniel said, even as Jack heard a noise behind him and whirled with his gun leveled. “I think you knowing… he… was there impressed her.”
A huge figure emerged into view from behind a group of boulders that offered much better concealment than the tree that had, surprisingly, hidden the girl completely. This native couldn’t possibly have taken cover behind anything so slender.
Male, approaching seven feet tall and proportionately broad across the shoulders, clad in armor made from the hide of some unknown animal – and not human. His skin was brown with a distinct grayish tinge, his nose was broad and flat, and his lower jaw jutted out so that the tips of what could only be described as fangs protruded in front of his upper lip. Above his eyes his brows were heavy and slightly ridged. A mop of reddish-brown hair crowned his head and he had sideburns that took up most of his cheeks. He held a weapon that Jack had never seen before.
It was a thick wooden staff, as high as its wielder, with a double-headed axe blade at each end. ‘That must be a bitch to control in combat’, Jack thought; although this guy certainly looked as if he had the muscle to cope.
Daniel’s eyebrows shot up. “Not a unas,” he mused. “Something like the corpse we saw on the MALP images but more human.” He listened to the woman speaking again. “This, uh, guy is her… sidekick? Right hand man? Squire? He’s either called Daelan and he’s a Red Tiger or else his name is Red Tiger and he’s a Daelan. I’m not sure which way round it goes.”
Jack pointed to himself. “Colonel Jack O’Neill,” he said. He pointed to the others in turn. “Daniel Jackson. Major Samantha Carter. Teal’c.” Daniel added a few explanatory words, presumably clarifying that ‘Colonel’ and ‘Major’ were ranks rather than names, and Jack didn’t bother to ask exactly what he’d said.
The woman pointed to herself. “Kenadi Nefret,” she said.
Daniel bit on his lower lip. “That is fascinating,” he said. “The first name sounds Celtic but the last could be Egyptian, or maybe Turkish; Goa’uld, even.”
The huge newcomer spoke in a deep, rumbling, voice.
“The girl’s a famous hero,” Daniel translated. “Savior of… the place that doesn’t have winter?” He frowned. “It must be a long way from here.” He went back to translating. “Sword… skill… got it! Great swordswoman, always hits with her bow, defender of the… weak.”
The girl in question laughed again, shook her head, and spoke.
“She’s downplaying it,” Daniel related, “saying she was lucky, she just did what anyone else would have done, and she had good… back-up.”
Jack studied her again. She held the bow like someone who knew how to use it, the way a combat veteran would hold a rifle, and there were two swords slung at her hips. He assessed her as being very much the deadly warrior her massive sidekick claimed. The modesty was a nice touch; this ‘Kenadi Nefret’ would probably have made a good officer in an Earth Special Forces unit if she’d been born on a different planet. He’d be prepared to bet heavily that she was neither a Goa’uld nor one of their slave soldiers.
“Okay, it looks like we can communicate,” Jack said. “Securing our line of retreat would be a good first step. See if she knows anything about the DHD.”
Daniel, with some input from Sam, began questioning the local girl. Jack occupied himself with studying the big guy and, of course, keeping an eye on the surroundings for possible hostiles. The barbarian seemed to be doing the same thing.
“She calls it a ‘song gate’, or ‘song portal’, and says it’s a left-over from some empire called ‘Illefarn’ that fell thousands of years ago,” Daniel reported. “Of course she attributes its workings to magic. It must be called a ‘song gate’ for a reason, logically, and that could mean that the symbols on the DHD are a musical notation. If that’s the case then I can definitely decode it. Finding out what the locals use for music would help a lot, though, assuming it hasn’t changed too much over time.”
“The local music that isn’t Eighties metal songs.” Jack grinned. “Okay, so we need to find what passes for civilization in these parts, I guess.”
Daniel turned back to the girl. They exchanged words and gestures. “She says she knows an expert in ‘magic’ and music,” Daniel related, “and she can take us to her. Neat.”
“Right, if she can guide us, let’s go,” Jack said. “You can ask her about the Goa’uld, and if she knows about anyone from this place traveling off-world, while we’re…”
Kenadi interrupted him with a sharp hiss, a finger held to her lips, and a hand upraised in a gesture that matched the American signal for ‘halt’. Jack was aware that it wasn’t a universal gesture, signifying ‘come here’ in parts of the Philippines and something obscene in Greece, but in this instance the meaning was clear. He fell silent and listened out for whatever the girl had heard; he guessed it was something possibly signifying approaching hostiles.
Yep. He could make out the faint sound of distant feet crunching on the snow. The girl must have sharp senses to have picked it up in the middle of a conversation.
She spoke rapidly, her tone urgent, and her giant companion shifted his axe in his grip and fixed a scowl on the forest in what, judging by the position of the sun, would be a roughly northerly direction.
“She says she hears… some name that doesn’t mean anything to me… approaching,” Daniel translated. “Too many to fight.”
“She hasn’t seen our weapons in action,” Jack said, “but there’s no point in taking chances. She seems friendly, which implies her enemies might not be, so we’ll take her advice. If she heads out we’ll follow where she leads.”
Daniel relayed Jack’s decision. Kenadi gave a tight-lipped smile and a nod. She dipped behind the tree, came up holding a large back-pack, and shrugged it onto her shoulders. She spoke once more. Jack didn’t need Daniel to interpret what she said as “Follow me.” The girl led the way, SG-1 followed, and the massive semi-human axe-man brought up the rear.
Kenadi set a fast pace. Her pack was as large as an infantryman’s ALICE pack, and probably not as good at distributing weight, but it didn’t seem to be slowing her down. Her balance indicated to Jack that the pack wasn’t light; the girl must be stronger than she looked. The big guy was wearing a pack of at least equal size but it was a much smaller proportion of his mass. It wasn’t any surprise that he treated it as if it was non-existent.
She wasn’t leading them in the direction of the Stargate. It lay slightly south of east and her course was to the south-west. Jack had no objection. Returning to the Stargate only to sit around waiting for Daniel to decipher this non-standard DHD would be pointless, especially if they were going to be besieged there by tattooed barbarians, and following Kenadi seemed a much better alternative.
Or did, until she led them into a trap.
The woods became thinner and an open plain lay ahead. Out on that plain a line of warriors barred their path. There were seventy or eighty of them, in a ragged skirmish formation, small groups scattered across a wide front. Jack had expected to encounter tattooed half-naked barbarians like the one that had destroyed the MALP, and indeed a handful of the blocking force fit that description, but the bulk of the soldiers were rather different. They wore armor, chain shirts or steel breastplates, and many of them held bows or crossbows. Those not armed with missile weapons held spears, halberds, or axes.
Kenadi halted, still in the cover of the trees, and spoke quietly to Daniel.
“She says that she and Daelan – it must be his name, not his species – could cut their way through but we might get caught,” Daniel reported. “She suggests we stay here and lie low. They’ll chase after her and we can wait until they’ve gone. The bunch behind us aren’t that close and we should get clear. If we make our way west until we hit the coast, then go south, we’ll find a town. Port something – the rest of the name doesn’t translate. Clast? Llast? She claims we can’t miss it. She’ll try to meet us there but, if we don’t find her, we should ask for someone called Sharwyn.”
Jack clenched his jaw. “I’m not going to watch two people taking on seventy plus,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re fighting about but she comes over as one of the good guys. She didn’t try to shoot us a line to get us to help her side, went out of her way to help strangers, and now she wants us to stay out of danger. That’s not the way the bad guys act.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c put in. “Many times people have lied to us in an attempt to gain our assistance. I do not think this is one of those times.”
There was a deep crease between Sam’s brows. “Sir – do we really want to get into a firefight with a bunch of guys with bows and arrows?” she asked. “It’s pretty much overkill, especially when we don’t know who the sides are. Just because Kenadi seems like a good guy doesn’t mean the others are the bad guys. It could be one of those wars over trade and resources, or religion, where both sides are convinced they’re in the right.”
“Arrows and crossbow bolts have killed a lot of people in their time,” Jack pointed out. “I don’t plan on giving them the chance to clock up a few more, namely us, by playing too nice. Maybe a demonstration of what we can do will make them back off.”
“O’Neill is right,” Teal’c gave his opinion. “Those two are warriors. To let them fight alone against such numbers would disgrace us.”
“I’ve made my decision,” Jack said. “Daniel, tell her.”
They advanced out of the tree line together. Crossbows swung up to point at them. “A demonstration is a hell of a lot easier when you can tell the other side what you’re doing,” Jack muttered. He raised his voice. “Daniel, tell them to lower their weapons and back off or they’ll get for real what I’m going to do to the ground in front of them.”
Daniel shouted out, as instructed, but he didn’t carry the tone of command Jack would have imbued in the warning had he been able to deliver it himself. It was better than nothing, however, and as soon as Daniel fell silent Jack let loose a burst from his P-90. Dirt and snow flew up where the bullets hit the ground.
The opposing soldiers fell back with cries of alarm. A few bolts and arrows were loosed but went nowhere near SG-1 and their new friends. Jack’s eyebrows shot up in astonishment as, over the next few seconds, several figures materialized out of nowhere in the midst of the panicked soldiery. Four of them were in full plate armor, with shields emblazoned with a snowflake symbol on their arms, and cloaks of white trimmed with blue; women, Jack thought, although it was hard to be sure at a couple of hundred yards. Another two were men in long black robes and cloaks. One wore a pointed conical hat, like a stereotypical fantasy wizard, and carried a staff to complete the resemblance.
“Where did they come from?” Sam wondered aloud. “Surely they can’t have invisibility at this tech level?”
“The ruling elite,” Daniel speculated.
Kenadi showed no surprise at the appearances. She made a comment to her huge companion. Daniel didn’t get a chance to translate before she spoke again. This time she addressed him directly, although her eyes kept flicking to Jack; she was obviously well aware that he was the one in charge of the strangers.
“She says be ready to fight,” Daniel relayed. “I don’t quite get the rest of it. Something about them coming out of invisibility meaning they’ve already started their attack. And the invisibility didn’t faze her one little bit.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed. “She popped up from behind a tree that wouldn’t have concealed a cat. Does she have an invisibility screen herself?”
Kenadi hushed Daniel when he tried to ask. Her head tilted, listening, and her eyes scanned the ground around the group. Suddenly she reached her right hand across her body to the sword at her left hip, pulled it from the scabbard, and delivered a thrust to apparently empty air. Half of the sword-blade vanished, blood began to trickle along the runnel in the blade and drip onto the snow, and then a body became visible on the end of her sword. A man in black leather, hooded and cloaked, a dagger poised in his upraised hand. His fingers opened and the dagger dropped to the ground.
Kenadi disengaged and let the body fall free. She slung her bow over her shoulder and drew her other, much shorter, sword with her left hand. She adopted the stance of someone dueling with rapier and main-gauche and swung her head around. Her eyes were trained on the ground.
Jack looked at the body, jerking spasmodically in its death throes, and saw the trail of footprints in the snow leading up to it. He suddenly realized how Kenadi had spotted the invisible man’s approach and he turned his own attention to the snowy ground. At first he saw nothing and then depressions in the snow began to appear, with no visible cause; footprints. Jack brought up his P-90 and fired a short burst.
A spray of blood spurted from out of nothing. Red droplets spattered on the snow. A scream of agony rang out, high-pitched and probably female, and something fell heavily. The body remained invisible but a mace appeared and rolled across the snowy ground.
Exclamations of surprise sounded from Daniel and Sam. “Invisible attackers!” Jack yelled. “Watch the snow!”
Two seconds later Sam’s P-90 spat fire. She achieved similar results to Jack and another body hit the ground in a welter of blood. Teal’c’s staff weapon blasted out and the snow was kicked up as the target was thrown backward.
Daniel was slower to react. He avoided a fatal stab wound only by sheer accident; he stopped in his tracks and half-turned just as a dagger-wielding attacker delivered a thrust. Suddenly he was grappling with a black-clad assailant, desperately trying to keep a knife from his throat, but then he was saved by the huge warrior Daelan. The big man seized the knife-man by the scruff of the neck, threw him bodily to the ground, and swung his double-axe. The blade bit deep and no second blow was required.
Jack saw Kenadi killing another invisible man, her movements graceful but lethally efficient, and checked his surroundings again. He saw no more footprints but instead something even more baffling. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a pack of giant wolves was charging toward them.
There were five of the big animals, perhaps twice the size of timber wolves, snarling and slavering as they came. For a second Jack couldn’t believe that they were real, suspecting that they were hologram projections as they had materialized from nothing, but then he saw snow flying up behind their racing paws. He gave them a burst from the P-90, joined a second later by Sam, and the beasts went down in howling ruin.
The line of soldiers was advancing now. Arrows whistled through the air. Most fell short but some struck the ground close to SG-1. Reluctantly Jack decided that they were committed to battle now and further warning shots would be useless. He emptied the rest of his magazine at the men, hitting several, and then ejected the empty mag and slapped a new one home.
Sam followed his example. Teal’c fired a staff blast at one of the men in fantasy wizard garb and blew him away. Daniel had a full magazine, not having fired yet, and his additional firepower made up for the fact that he couldn’t match Jack or Sam for marksmanship. In all about twenty-five of the opposing force went down, including both of the ‘wizards’ and three of the armored women, and the survivors turned and fled en masse.
Jack sucked in and released a deep breath. “So far so good,” he said. “I guess we can move on now.” He expected their ‘native guides’ to hasten onward but instead they went to the bodies of the invisible attackers and began a hasty but thorough search. He saw Kenadi pulling rings from fingers and necklaces from around necks. His opinion of her went down. “Do we have time for that?” he asked.
Daniel passed on his comment. The girl looked up briefly, nodded, and spoke in reply.
“As near as I can interpret,” Daniel passed on, “she says they’re operating in hostile territory and rely on the enemy dead for everything. The ‘magic’ they take from the bodies has kept them alive many times.” He tilted his head to one side. “Maybe the invisibility gadgets are in jewelry.”
“That makes sense, I guess,” Jack said. “I didn’t figure her for a looter. Okay, I can live with that. As long as she doesn’t spend too much time at it, if there’s another horde coming up behind us, but she knows about them.”
Kenadi removed her pack from her back, opened it, and stuffed her trophies in. She fastened it quickly and swung it back into position. She spoke again, jerking a finger in the direction in which they had been headed, and Jack didn’t need Daniel’s translation to know that she was saying “Okay, we’re done here, let’s move out.”
They trekked on for another three hours. Daniel spent some time as they walked questioning the girl, and to a lesser extent her companion, about what she might know of the Goa’uld, the technology behind the ‘magic’, and the reasons behind the war she seemed to be fighting. She gave terse answers; her attention was obviously concentrated on her surroundings. Eventually she apparently tired of his questions, rummaged in her pack, produced a book and handed it to him. Daniel smiled happily and occupied himself with trying to decipher its script whilst on the move; after the second time that he walked into a tree Jack took the book from him, stowed it away, and told him he could have it back when they were somewhere they could sit down in peace.
Twice during that time they came under attack. The first attack was by a group of humanoids who were obviously of the same race as the corpse that had been the first life-form spotted by the MALP. Protruding-browed, heavy-jawed, and hairy; reminiscent of ancestral hominids, homo erectus perhaps, but with weapons and armor that wouldn’t have been out of place in Dark Ages Europe. They made good use of cover as they attacked, giving the members of SG-1 only a couple of clear shots, but at close quarters they were outclassed by Kenadi and Daelan.
Teal’c clubbed one with the butt of his staff weapon, Jack shot another in the face at point-blank range, and the other attackers fell before Kenadi’s rapier and short-sword and Daelan’s double-axe. Jack noticed, during the fight, that the rapier had some properties not normally found in a sword. Even a slight wound from its blade seemed to have a paralyzing effect on a foe. If Kenadi could make contact with an enemy’s flesh the humanoid froze in place, unable to attack or defend, for a few moments. Almost always Kenadi or Daelan finished off the helpless opponents before they could recover.
On the other occasion the attackers were shambling gray-skinned beings, human in shape and feature, but seemingly mindless and capable only of relentless attack. Kenadi’s rapier had no such paralyzing effects upon these creatures and they ignored thrusts with the slim blade even through the chest. She used her shorter, broader, left-hand sword to hack away at them and Daelan carved them apart with his mighty axe-blades. That was much more effective.
They reminded Jack of the zombies from horror movies, George Romero’s ‘Living Dead’ series in particular, and he put into practice the standard technique for killing zombies as depicted in those classics; bullets straight through the brain. It worked in real life just as well as it did on screen.
After a while Kenadi called a halt for a meal break. She collected fallen twigs and small branches and built a fire. Instead of using a tinder-box to light it, as Jack expected, she produced a small rod of some ivory-like material, pointed it at the wood, and sent out a jet of flame. The deadwood caught light immediately and she melted snow over the resultant fire.
Daelan took over cooking duties and Kenadi occupied herself with examining the items she had looted from the enemy dead. She unrolled parchments taken from the dead ‘wizards’, grinned widely, and then read aloud from one of the scrolls. Jack stared at the parchment and his brow furrowed. He was sure that there had been words written on it when she started to read but, by the time she had finished, the scroll was blank.
Kenadi fixed her gaze on Jack. “Now,” she said, apparently in English, “we can talk.”
Disclaimer: ‘Neverwinter Nights’ is the property of Atari, Bioware, Hasbro, and Wizards of the Coast Inc. Stargate: SG1 was created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner and is owned by MGM Television Entertainment and Gekko Productions.