The original idea was for it to be a two-part story but my original first part was too big to be posted on LJ and I was forced to split it in two. And the tale grew in the telling, as they do. This is therefore part 2 of 12. Part One was HERE. This part is 4,700 words; rating R for violence.
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 Two: How The Heroes Die
“The gods you name sound like those of Mulhorand,” Kenadi said. “That is thousands of miles away.” She grinned. “I impersonated a Mulhorandi ambassador to penetrate the Host Tower of the Arcane but I only succeeded because the guards knew even less about that far land than did I. I have read of their gods but that is all. The gods we have here in the North are different. I follow the goddess Mielikki, the Forest Queen, patron of rangers and druids.”
“Sounds a pleasant sort of goddess,” Jack remarked.
“She is,” Kenadi said, giving him a flashing smile.
“Have you ever heard of the Goa’uld?” Daniel asked. He gave a brief description of their physiology and habits.
“I’ve never heard that name,” Kenadi said, “but I know about creatures that burrow into humans and take over their minds. We call them ‘Intellect Devourers’. I killed one in the Peninsula Prison. It had taken over the Head Warder, and released all the prisoners, and was organizing them into an army.”
“You killed it? With your sword?” Jack raised his eyebrows.
“It wasn’t easy,” Kenadi said, “but, yes, I did. I sent away all its dominated slaves before I attacked the Warder. When I had slain him the creature emerged and tried to possess me or Daelan, as there were no other hosts present, and I impaled it on my blade.” She shuddered. “Truly a vile, disgusting, thing.”
“They’re all of that,” Jack agreed. “Know of any more around here?”
Kenadi shook her head. “They are rare. The one I slew had been brought to Neverwinter from Waterdeep to be an ingredient in the cure for the Wailing Death plague. It escaped when the Academy was attacked.”
Jack didn’t ask her to elaborate. Getting anything more than a brief overview of the local situation would take far too long. “Okay,” he said. “Tell me who the guys are who tried to stop us back there.”
“Wizards from the Host Tower of the Arcane,” Kenadi told him, “Priestesses of Auril the Frost Maiden, and followers of Kurth the High Captain who I slew in Luskan. They are allied with the Elk Tribe of the Uthgardt, who are also worshippers of Auril, and they seek vengeance upon me for the death of Kurth, various wizards, and several of the priestesses. I am sorry that I have involved you in my fight, which is none of your concern, but had you traveled on your own you would still have been at risk. Kurth was a pirate and his men would doubtless seek to rob you. Those weapons of yours would be a valuable prize.”
“Hey, we don’t mind helping you out,” Jack said. “Our first priority has to be working out how to get home but we’ll do what we can.”
“I want to know how you did that translation thing so that we can understand what you’re saying,” Sam said. “I’ve never encountered anything like it.”
“I used a spell scroll,” Kenadi said. “I am no wizard but I can use magic devices that others have created.”
“Voice-activated technology on a sheet of paper,” Sam muttered to herself. “It doesn’t make sense.” She raised her voice to normal conversational level again. “Can you explain how it works?”
Kenadi shook her head. “It uses the power of the Weave, that is all I know, and only a real wizard could explain how. I have friends who may be able to tell you more. They may still be in Port Llast, to where I am taking you, or else they will have moved on to Beorunna’s Well for the campaign against the Elk Tribe Uthgardt. Of course the Host Tower wizards would give you a demonstration of magic, should we encounter them again, but only of its destructive and painful effects.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said, “with a vocal accompaniment of ‘cower before me, puny mortals’.”
She rose to her feet. “We had better move on. If we go now we should be in Neverwinter territory before sunset. We can talk at more leisure then.”
Daniel pouted. “Hey, I wanted to take a look at that book.”
Jack shook his head. “Later, Danny boy. She has a point. We have more important things to do first.”
Daniel’s pout grew more pronounced. “Nothing’s more important than books.”
The sun was dipping but was well short of the horizon when Kenadi brought them to a halt. They were walking along a dirt road, its surface rutted by wheel tracks, and some of the fields near to the roadway were cultivated and held crops or livestock. The farmhouses showed signs of being built with defense in mind, however, and this was hardly civilization.
Two figures were sitting by the side of the road. They rose to their feet as Kenadi halted and stood as if waiting for the party to approach.
Kenadi led them forward again. The waiting figures made no offensive moves. “They seem not hostile,” Kenadi said to Jack and his companions, “but I believe I know who they are and they may well bear us ill intent. Do not use your weapons without provocation but be wary.”
Jack studied the two as they came into clear view. One of them was a huge man, almost a match for Daelan in size, but with features that were clearly those of a normal human. His garb was similar to that of the barbarian who had smashed the MALP, except that he wore a short open-fronted chain mail shirt over his tattooed torso; Jack guessed that the armor had been originally made for someone much smaller. His head was shaven save for a feather-decorated top-knot. A necklace of animal teeth hung around his neck and his arms bore bracelets of copper. He had a large oval shield, with a spiked central boss, strapped to one arm and he held a battle-axe in the other hand.
The other waiting figure wasn’t so obviously human. It was a woman, slim of build and as tall as Sam Carter, with skin that was the blackest that Jack had ever seen. Not the brown-black of the African or Melanesian races of Earth but a pure jet black. Her hair was absolutely white, matching the snow, and her ears were… unusual, to say the least. Long and pointed, as if she were a Vulcan, or an elf from that Peter Jackson ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie. She was clad in figure-hugging matt black leather, reinforced with dark metal studs, and a cloak that closely resembled Kenadi’s camouflage cloak. The hilt of a sword stuck up from a scabbard across her back and a hand-axe was thrust through a belt-loop at her left hip.
“You would be Cierre of Luruar, if I am not mistaken,” Kenadi greeted her.
“And you, I presume, are Kenadi, dubbed the Benefactor, Hero of Neverwinter,” the black-skinned woman responded. “You have slain many priestesses of my goddess.”
“You seek vengeance, no doubt,” Kenadi said. Her eyebrows twitched upward. “I would not have thought to meet you thus, sitting plain by the road, less than a league from a fort of Neverwinter.”
“You are a ranger perhaps as skilled as am I, if rumor speaks true,” Cierre replied. “To sneak up on you would be no easy task. It was easier, as well as more honorable, to wait for you and challenge you to a duel.”
“And who is your companion?” Kenadi asked. “Does he seek to challenge Daelan in like fashion?”
“I do,” the barbarian warrior said. “I am Jaevgrim of the Elk Tribe. You and your sniveling traitorous toady slew Yeanasha of the Elks. For that I shall take your heads.”
“Slew Yeanasha? We did no such thing,” Kenadi protested. “We saw her in the waiting chambers of the Host Tower, and spoke to her, but that is all. She was alive and well when we departed.”
“Lies!” Jaevgrim snarled. “You treacherous Neverwinter murderers, spreaders of plague…”
“Spreaders of plague?” Kenadi interrupted. Her lips curled back from her teeth in a snarl. “Two thousand of us died of the Wailing Death!”
“I shall smash your insults back into your mouth, Elk warrior,” Daelan growled.
“Weakling of the cowardly Red Tigers, I will urinate on your corpse,” Jaevgrim answered.
“Hush, primitive male,” the dark-skinned girl put in. “Your boasts are tiresome.”
Kenadi glared at Jaevgrim for a moment longer but then pursed her lips and turned to the other girl. “You are far from your home in Luruar, Cierre, and I hardly think news of my deeds could have carried there so quickly. Certainly there has been no time for you to travel here on foot. Were you summoned here to confront me?”
“I was,” the black-skinned woman admitted, “but I will not tell you by whom.” She raised her right hand and took hold of her sword.
“I have no wish to fight you,” Kenadi said, “but I suppose that it cannot be avoided. What of these companions of mine? I warn you that they have weapons that would slay you in an instant.”
Cierre cast an incurious glance over the members of SG-1. “Were they with you in Luskan?”
“No,” said Kenadi. “I came upon them in the forest after I left the city. I was guiding them to Port Llast.”
“Then I have no interest in them,” said Cierre. “If I am not mistaken this road leads to Port Llast and they no longer need you as a guide. When you are dead they can continue on. I shall not impede their passage.”
“Hey, if you think we’re just going to stand here and watch you kill our friend, you’re making a big mistake,” Jack put in. “Back off, girl, or I’ll put a bullet through your kneecap.” He gestured with his P-90, sweeping the barrel across in an arc encompassing the dark girl and the barbarian, pointed low. “You too, big guy.”
“There is no need for you to be involved, Colonel Jack,” Kenadi said, shaking her head. “Cierre has done me the courtesy of an open approach. She is known as a skilled tracker and she would doubtless find me again. If I do not face her now I will have to in the future. We might as well get this over with.” She took off her backpack, set it down on the ground, and drew her swords. “If I should fall,” she said to Jack, “take my pack. There is gold therein that will cover your needs, or to pay for a wizard to assist you, and books that might be of interest to Daniel. Seek out Sharwyn, as I have told you, and she will give you aid.”
Jack gritted his teeth. “I think you’re doing a dumb thing,” he said, “but, okay, we’ll go along with it if that’s what you want.”
Cierre drew her sword, revealing a blade that glowed with an eerie green light, and hefted her hand-axe in her left hand. “You have more honor and less arrogance than I was led to believe,” she said to Kenadi. “This will be a victory of which bards shall sing for years to come.”
“Probably,” agreed Kenadi, “but it remains to be seen which of us shall be the victor.”
“Enough talk,” the giant human barbarian growled. “It is time to fight! I shall return to the Elk Tribe in triumph with the head of the Red Tiger mongrel hanging at my belt.” He clashed his axe against his shield. “Fear my fury!”
“Rage of the Red Tiger unleashed!” Daelan responded. The two huge men hurled themselves at each other in a whirlwind of swinging blades.
The two girls faced off against each other more cautiously. For a moment they merely stood looking at each other and then Kenadi lunged, Cierre parried, and from then on it was a blur of dancing motion. The swords clashed together in a blinding sequence of thrusts, parries, ripostes, and slashes.
“They’re amazing,” Daniel commented. “They have to be enhanced some way. No normal human could move that fast.”
“Kenadi definitely isn’t a Goa’uld host,” Sam said, “but I don’t know about the other… girl. Her eyes look strange. They might even be glowing a touch.”
“I do not believe that she is Goa’uld,” Teal’c said. He frowned. “She is indeed skilful. More so, I fear, than our companion Kenadi Nefret.”
“You could have a point,” Daniel said, as Cierre parried a thrust by Kenadi and retaliated with a slashing axe blow that Kenadi avoided only by fractions of an inch. Daniel bit his lip and his brows descended. “She’s at least as fast and strong and I think she’s totally ambidextrous. Kenadi isn’t as good with her left.”
Jack studied the other two fighters. “I think our big guy is stronger than their big guy,” he said. Daelan was driving his opponent back with a barrage of powerful blows.
“Well, that’s good,” said Daniel, “but suppose Kenadi loses. Are we just going to let it happen?”
“If this is a matter of honor, our intervention would offend her greatly,” Teal’c said.
“Yeah, but she won’t be dead,” said Daniel. “I’d count that as a win.”
Jack hefted his P-90 and clenched his jaw as he debated with himself. A second later the issue became moot.
Kenadi recovered from a lunge and delivered a backhand cut that just caught the tip of Cierre’s shoulder. The tip of her blade sliced through the leather armor and drew blood. Cierre froze in place, her weapons motionless, and Kenadi grinned in triumph. She reversed her sword and raised it to strike with the pommel to Cierre’s head.
Suddenly Cierre came to life. A smile flickered on her lips as she thrust with her sword and took Kenadi under the ribs. It pierced through the leather jack and drove in deep. Kenadi cried out. Her rapier fell from her hand. Cierre thrust still deeper, stepping in as she did so and coming close enough that their chests touched, and the glowing tip of her blade burst through the back of Kenadi’s armor. Blood gushed from the wound.
Jack raised his P-90 and took aim through the optical sight, looking for a clear shot, but Kenadi was in the line of fire. To his side Sam was taking aim as well but, like Jack, she didn’t fire.
Daelan roared in rage and anguish. Cierre’s eyes flicked in his direction as she began to withdraw her blade and step back. In that instant Kenadi brought up the short-sword in her left hand and stabbed Cierre in the stomach. Her sword went in up to the cross-guard and Cierre screamed in her turn.
The two women staggered apart. A great gout of blood burst from Kenadi as the sword ripped through her abdomen. She swayed on her feet for a moment and then toppled like a felled tree. Cierre dropped her weapons and fell to her knees clutching at her stomach. Kenadi’s sword was still embedded in the wound.
Daniel and Sam raced to Kenadi’s aid. Jack lowered his P-90 and went to Cierre. Now that she was wounded, and badly, there was no longer any question of shooting her. Teal’c’s eyes were fixed on the battle between the two giant barbarians.
Daelan, in a berserk frenzy of rage and anguish, was battering his opponent with a flurry of blows almost too quick to see and carrying shattering power. The Elk Tribe warrior’s shield was being smashed back against his face and body by the force of the impacts and he had no chance at all to strike back. Daelan gripped his double-axe in the fashion of a quarter-staff and rammed the centre section into the other man. Jaevgrim rocked back, stumbled, and fell over. He landed on his backside, desperately trying to protect himself with axe and shield, as Daelan roared, changed his grip on his weapon, and rained down powerful blows with the blades.
Sam tried to staunch the flow of blood from Kenadi’s dreadful wound. It was hopeless. The damage was massive. Blood began to spill from Kenadi’s mouth as she tried to speak.
“Hea... heal… po…” she croaked incoherently. Her hands moved feebly at waist level.
“Don’t try to talk,” Sam urged. “Lie still.” Her sleeves were red to the elbows as she strove to do something, anything, to stop the blood loss.
Cierre’s wound was not quite as horrific as Kenadi’s but it was still probably mortal. She moaned and clutched at the hilt of the sword in her gut. “She… went to… knock… me out,” Cierre gasped out. “Not to… kill me.”
“Yeah, well, she’s one of the good guys,” Jack said. “I’m going to see what I can do for your wound, okay?”
Kenadi suddenly sat half upright. “Save Neverwinter,” she said clearly. “Kill Maugrim. Save…” Her body jerked convulsively. Blood bubbled from her mouth and then stopped. Her head lolled sideways and her body flopped back down. Sam felt for a pulse and found nothing.
Daelan split his opponent’s shield in two and raised his double-axe for a finishing blow. It never landed.
Soft thuds, displaced air expelled from spaces suddenly being occupied by a solid body, came from all around. Human figures appeared in those spaces. Some robed, some armored, all immediately taking action.
One fired some kind of energy bolt at Daelan, causing him to arch his back as his muscles went into spasm, and stopping him from bringing down his axe. He whirled to face his new attacker and Jaevgrim, spared for the moment, rolled away and began to scramble to his feet.
Sam and Daniel were caught totally off-guard. Daniel’s hands were cradling Kenadi’s head. Sam had slung her P-90 over her shoulder as she tried to tend to the girl’s fatal wound. Before either of them could bring a gun to bear one of the armored attackers, a woman in a white and blue cloak, gestured with her hands and spoke a phrase that seemed to be an invocation to a god. Both Daniel and Sam froze in place, motionless, Sam’s P-90 half-way to the aim and her finger just entering the trigger guard.
Teal’c had his staff weapon in his hands. As soon as the new arrivals revealed themselves as hostile he reacted. A staff blast hurled the closest of the robed men from his feet and sent him crashing to the ground, smoke curling up from a charred patch on his robes, to lie limp and still.
Jack rose from beside Cierre, aiming and firing even as he came to his feet, spraying the nearest robed figure with a short burst. The bullets bounced off some sort of force shield. The man sneered and raised a stick of bone or ivory – Jack refused to think of it as a wand – and pointed it at Jack. There was nothing Jack could do other than fire again, even though he expected it to be futile, and so he let loose another burst. The first few bullets bounced off again but then the shield failed and four rounds tore into the wand-wielder’s body. He spun around and fell flat on his face in the bloody snow.
Teal’c blasted one of the armored women. Coruscations of electrical sparks illuminated her armor as she fell. Teal’c shifted targets to aim at an indistinct robed figure, shimmering and translucent, but a wave of energy emanated from the robed man and struck Teal’c before he could fire. Teal’c staggered and his fingers lost their grip on the staff. Frost crystals formed on his eyebrows and his strip of beard. He shook himself and stooped for the fallen staff.
Jack sprayed the ghostly figure with bullets. They passed through harmlessly. An armored woman was coming at him from the side and so Jack turned and gave her a burst through the chest. The 5.7 mm armor-piercing rounds ripped through the plate armor and dropped her in her tracks.
Meanwhile another of the women had frozen Daelan in the same rigid paralysis as had afflicted Daniel and Sam. The woman turned to face Teal’c, gestured, and spoke words that were incomprehensible despite the translation effect. The ground burst open beside him and a human skeleton emerged from the hole. A steel circlet crowned its head and in its bony hands it held a long two-handed sword. Even as Teal’c snatched up his staff weapon the skeleton swung its sword and knocked the staff from his grasp.
“Don’t kill him!” the shimmering figure commanded, as the skeleton lashed out with its sword again and Teal’c dodged.
“As you wish, Lord Maugrim,” the woman acknowledged. The skeleton shifted its grip on the sword and struck with the flat of the blade.
Teal’c went in under the blow, seized the skeletal arms, and grappled for control of the sword. He swept his leg around, tripped the skeleton, and threw it over his shoulder. He kicked out, broke one of the arm bones, and pulled the sword free. A downward strike shattered the helmeted skull and the animated skeleton fell apart.
Jack couldn’t get a clear shot at the woman who had controlled the skeleton. Sam and Daniel were standing, paralyzed, in his line of fire. He moved to get a clear shot but something hit him across the back of the head and he fell to his knees, head spinning, his gun muzzle drooping to point at the ground. He managed to turn his head and saw a man, clad in a fancy jacket and high boots that made him look like some kind of goddamn pirate, who hadn’t been there a second ago. The pirate held a club, maybe even a belaying pin, in his right hand. Jack tried to raise his P-90 but the stunning blow had slowed his reactions and he was too late. The club came down again on Jack’s head and he saw stars.
Teal’c found himself fighting something insubstantial, a hazy black figure like the shadow of a man, preventing him from recovering the staff weapon. It touched him with intangible hands and he felt a chill penetrating to his bones. Suddenly the sword in his hands felt heavier. He brought it round in a swing and the blade passed through the shadowy creature. There was a slight tug of resistance, almost as if he was swishing it through water, and the dark shape recoiled. It came forward again and laid a hand upon Teal’c’s arm. The sword’s weight seemed to increase yet more.
Teal’c summoned all his strength and swung the sword again. He aimed at where the neck should have been on a human. Again there was momentary resistance to his blow. This time the shape didn’t just recoil, it dissipated into nothingness. Teal’c hurled the sword point-first at the woman who had sent the skeleton, and presumably also the shadow creature, to attack him. It fell short.
The woman fixed her gaze on Teal’c. Her helmet was open at the front and revealed a pretty face with full lips and wide blue eyes. “I’m impressed,” she said. “You have other talents besides your strange weapons.”
“You waste time, Lady Cold Circle,” the translucent man complained. “Take him!”
Teal’c dived for his staff weapon. Simultaneously Lady Cold Circle pointed her fingers at him and spoke in a chanting tone. Teal’c hit the ground beside the staff, his limbs refusing to obey his mind, and lay motionless in the snow.
Jack was seized by strong hands and jerked to his feet. The piratical man took him in an arm-lock and held him as a robed man and an armored woman approached. The blows on the head had dazed Jack too much for him to be able to free himself before his gun was taken and he was bound tightly with ropes. The pirate took the P-90 and examined it for a short time before it was snatched from him by the man in dark robes.
Daniel, Sam, Teal’c and Daelan were tied up as well. Daniel’s paralysis wore off while the knots were being fastened but his captors easily restrained him. The big Elk Tribe barbarian joined those binding Daelan and took the opportunity to deliver a solid punch to the face of the man who had defeated him.
“You cowardly bastard,” Jack snarled.
“I will smash you too, little man,” the barbarian growled in answer.
“He speaks truth,” Lady Cold Circle said. “There is no honor in such an act, Jaevgrim. Desist.”
Jaevgrim scowled but obeyed, delivering no further blows, and restricting himself only to ensuring that Daelan’s bonds were tight.
The shimmering translucence that enveloped the attackers’ presumed commander either expired, if it was time-limited, or was switched off. The man came into plain view and Jack and Daniel stared at him.
He wore black robes and a black skull-cap with a peak that went down over the centre of his forehead. He had an aquiline nose, high arched black eyebrows, and a thin mustache and goatee beard that proclaimed him as an Evil Mastermind as plainly as if he had worn a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘I’m the Dark Lord, fear me’. He folded his arms and stared back at the prisoners.
“Most satisfactory,” he said. “I thought the so-called Hero of Neverwinter would fall into this trap and I was correct.” He turned and strode over to Cierre, who lay moaning on the ground with the sword still embedded in her stomach, and looked down at her. “You made the perfect bait. Well done for actually killing her, by the way. The Neverwinter fools built up her legend so much that now they will be plunged into despair. Their morale will be shattered.”
“You… lied to me, Maugrim,” Cierre gasped out. She struggled up slightly and supported herself on an elbow. She panted for breath, clouds of condensation forming in front of her mouth in the cold air, and managed to speak again. “Lady… Cold Circle,” she began.
Maugrim didn’t let her continue. He stooped down, grabbed the hilt of the sword, and pulled it out of Cierre’s stomach. He ripped sideways as he tugged and blood spurted forth. Cierre screamed, a high piercing shriek of agony, and collapsed.
Maugrim tossed the sword down close to Kenadi’s corpse. “A perfect picture,” he said. “These two killed each other, almost exactly what really happened, and then the big oaf drove off the other attackers and pursued them. If the Neverwinter people know about these strangers, and I suspect they don’t, they’ll assume they went with the half-orc. Or that they were false and helped with the attack, possibly, but I don’t really care.”
“You should have let me heal Cierre,” Lady Cold Circle said.
“She’s more useful dead,” Maugrim said. “Ah, that reminds me, I’d better make sure that the bothersome heroine stays dead.” He beckoned to the Elk warrior. “Make yourself useful, Jaevgrim, and cut off her head. Use Cierre’s axe rather than your own.”
“With pleasure, Lord Maugrim,” said the giant. He swaggered over to join Maugrim, took up the hand-axe, and hacked down at Kenadi’s neck. “This shall make a fine trophy,” he said, and picked up the severed head by the hair.
“Put it down,” Maugrim commanded. “Taking it away would spoil the impression I seek to leave.”
Jaevgrim scowled but obeyed. He cast the head, and the bloody hand-axe, down beside the girl’s corpse. Jack averted his eyes from the grisly scene and looked at his captive colleagues. Daniel was grim-faced and tight-lipped. Sam, who had recovered from her paralysis by now, had tears trickling down her cheeks.
“Excellent,” Maugrim said. “That should stop anyone Raising her.”
“They can raise the dead?” Daniel muttered. “Sarcophagus technology?”
“This staging will not fool Aarin Gend,” Lady Cold Circle said. “There are too many inconsistencies.”
“It only has to convince the common herd,” Maugrim replied. “If Gend comes to investigate in person that in itself will gain us valuable time. Now, we must be off. This road is little traveled these days but the sound of the strangers’ weapons will have carried far.” A sardonic grin appeared on his face and he rubbed his hands together. “Those weapons will enable my army to crush Neverwinter for all time.” His grin grew wider. “Especially if these strangers can reveal to me the mysteries of the portal.”
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. Cierre was created by Ed Greenwood and Jason Carl.