Here is Part Three of my crossover between Stargate: SG-1 and the D&D PC game Neverwinter Nights. Part One was HERE and Part Two was HERE.
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 brutal death. This chapter is 9,700 words, rating R for scenes of torture.
Debt Of Blood
Part Three: In Durance Vile
Her legs were useless, failing to obey the commands of her mind, and so she dragged herself along with her hands. A Cure Light Wounds spell had slowed the bleeding only slightly, staving off her death for perhaps a couple of minutes at most, and she left a red trail in the snow as her life-blood seeped from the dreadful wound.
The healing potion bottle in her belt-pouch had been shattered by the sword-hilt as the blade drove into her gut. The shards worked their way through the leather as she crawled, lacerating her skin, causing pain that was swamped by the searing agony she already felt. She gritted her teeth and forced herself to continue, ignoring the pain, ignoring everything except her objective.
Her fingers touched the leggings of the headless corpse. A tear trickled down her cheek, fell onto the snow, and froze. She forced herself another few inches forward, clutched at the cloth, and tugged. Inch by inch she worked herself up the body until at last she reached the leather of the belt.
Her vision was dimming. Each successive breath was more effort than the last. Her fingers were unresponsive and beginning to stiffen. She fumbled her way to the pouch, managed to get her fingers inside, and touched the glass vial within. Slowly, carefully, Cierre took hold and pulled it out.
Jack sat with his back against the rough stone wall. He mimed throwing a ball against the far wall and caught the imaginary rebound. “So,” he wondered, “how many times is this?”
“You mean, how many times have we been locked up by some crazed megalomaniac with plans for conquering Earth, dominating his own planet, or both?” Daniel, in the cell across the hall, ran a finger over his lips. “I lost count after the first few. This time is a little unusual. It’s not often that we all get captured. Most times at least one of us stays free to rescue the others later.”
“Yeah, I’ll be sure to write this one up in my diary,” Jack said. He grabbed at the imaginary ball, appeared to miss, and made a second grab. Again he seemed to miss, frowned, and watched the non-existent ball roll away across the dungeon floor.
“We must rely upon our own resources,” Teal’c said. He was in the cell next to Jack, with a solid stone wall between them, and visible to Daniel only if both of them went to the bars at the front of their cells. The giant humanoid Daelan was in the cell opposite him.
“Which are just about nil,” Jack said. He had a wire saw concealed within one of his boot-laces but he wasn’t going to mention it for the moment, until he’d found out more about their environment, in case their captors were listening in. “We’re not going to MacGyver our way out of here with nothing but straw mattresses and our clothes. They even took my watch.”
“MacGyver? What is that?” Teal’c asked.
“An old TV show,” Jack said, “with this guy who could improvise gadgets out of damn near anything. The actor who played him looked a lot like me. Not as dashingly handsome, of course, but pretty cool for a civilian.”
“I’m baffled by the weird mix of technology they have here,” Sam remarked, from her cell on the far side of Teal’c’s. The cell facing her was empty except for a skeleton hanging from manacles fastened to the wall. “Invisibility, teleportation, energy blasts, paralysis fields, and yet they fight with swords and bows and arrows.” She paused and a grimace, unseen by anyone but Teal’c, crossed her face. “The guys who captured us seemed to be worried by poor Kenadi, maybe even scared of her, and yet all she had was a couple of swords.”
“The heart of the warrior is more important than the weapons, Major Carter,” Teal’c said. “Master Bra’tac with a wooden bashaak is more to be feared than a common soldier in full armor with a staff weapon and zat’nik’tel.”
“Yeah, you’re right there, Teal’c.” Jack threw the imaginary baseball again. “Although her swords were gimmicked somehow anyway, and I still think she had something in the way of invisibility technology, and there was the translation thing…”
“Speaking of which,” Sam pointed out, “I can’t understand what Daelan’s saying.”
“What?” Daniel came to the front of his cell. “Hey, yeah. We’re hearing him in his own language again. ‘I will tear out Maugrim’s gizzard and strangle him with it.’ Well, I can sympathize with the sentiment.”
“So the translator was something Kenadi had, in her back-pack maybe?” Sam shook her head, although none of the others could see her gesture, and frowned. “No, that can’t be. We could understand Daelan last night, and the guards who threw us in here, and every word of Maugrim gloating. A time-limited effect, I guess, or something that lasted for as long as we were awake.”
“Well, that’s going to make it a bit difficult for us to order breakfast,” Jack said. “Always assuming we get more than a bowl of gruel, whatever the hell gruel is, of course.”
“There’s a skeleton in the cell opposite me,” Sam announced. “Somehow I don’t think they do five-star breakfasts around here.”
“Didn’t think so,” said Jack. “On the bright side, it’s going to be just as difficult for Maugrim to interrogate us if we can’t understand each other. It’ll make it easier to stretch things out until we can figure out how to get out of here or another team turns up to rescue us. That’s assuming that Hammond risks sending another team when the DHD’s non-standard and they might not be able to figure out how to get home.”
“General Hammond does not leave his men behind,” Teal’c stated. “He is a true warrior. He will send help and trust to Daniel Jackson to bring us all back.”
“He’ll send through another MALP first, to take close-ups of the control panel and get it decoded, before he risks sending another team,” Sam said. “It’s going to take time. Then they have to find us. That teleport jump could have taken us anywhere.”
“I doubt if we’re all that far away from where we started,” Jack said. “Kenadi and Daelan were wandering around on foot and they must have been in Maugrim’s territory to have got him pissed at them. My guess is less than fifty miles. Anyone want to place bets?”
“I also think that we are relatively close to the Chaapa’ai,” Teal’c opined.
Daniel went off on another tack. “Maugrim,” he mused. “That name is kind of familiar.”
“Some old god, maybe?” Jack raised an eyebrow. “It doesn’t sound like any of the ones that turned out to be Goa’uld. More like the Viking bunch, I’d say, but if he’s an Asgard then I’m the King of Swaziland.”
“There’s a talking wolf called Maugrim in ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’,” Sam put in. “I used to love that book.”
“Huh? ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’?” Jack raised his eyes and stared at the cell ceiling. “Hey, there might be guys who look like wizards here, and snow, and a Frost Maiden, but I didn’t see any fauns or talking lions. No way we’re in freaking Narnia.”
The sound of a heavy bolt being drawn back, and the creak of a door’s hinges, warned Jack that someone was entering the cell block. He rolled up the wire saw and stuffed it into a pocket. He’d been cutting through the bar from the inside, despite that being more difficult than feeding the wire around the bar and cutting from the outside, so that the cut would be invisible to anyone outside the cell. Even so he took the precaution of rubbing dirt over the shallow groove. He retreated back to the wall, sat down, and began to play with his invisible baseball again.
Maugrim strode into the corridor between the cells, a sneer on his face, not actually twirling the tips of his mustache but definitely looking as if he was considering the gesture. Behind him walked a girl who would have been the sole focus of every eye in any other company. A tall Nordic blonde, clad in skin-tight black leather, with her face bedecked with a score of piercings. Her eyebrows, her nose, her ears, and even her cheeks bore gold rings and jeweled studs. A whip with several thongs hung at her belt and dangled down beside her high leather boots. The leather armor that covered her breasts had vicious-looking steel spikes protruding from the nipple area.
Immediately behind Miss Whiplash was Lady Cold Circle, her helmet set aside to reveal a pretty face topped with short blonde hair, and following her was the tall Elk Tribe barbarian. Bringing up the rear were two figures so outlandish that they drew all the attention away from Maugrim and his other companions.
Jack’s jaw dropped so low that he thought it was going to hit his chest. “Holy crap!” he gasped. “We really are in friggin’ Narnia.”
They were eight feet tall, muscled heavily enough to make Teal’c and Daelan look puny, and held massive clubs in their huge hands. They were naked, and thickly covered with hair, but at groin level the covering was pitifully inadequate to conceal the very obvious fact that they were male. They walked on broad cloven-hoofed feet. Their heads were… impossible. Long-muzzled, crowned with long bovine horns, the creatures had the heads of bulls.
“Minotaurs!” Daniel exclaimed. “This is amazing. Some of the System Lords’ Jaffa wear helmets of that shape but these are obviously real flesh and bone. The helmets must be based on these creatures.”
“I dread to think what those Jaffa wear, uh, down there,” Sam said.
“Oh, just the usual armor and kilt,” Daniel replied, “although I guess they might have some sort of, uh, codpiece underneath.”
Maugrim scowled. He shouted something incomprehensible and rapped the butt of his staff on the stone flags.
“Don’t tell me, let me guess,” Jack said. “He’s annoyed at us rubber-necking at the minotaurs and not being suitably impressed by his magnificent evilness.”
“You pretty much hit the nail on the head,” Daniel said.
Maugrim spoke again. The pierced woman added a comment, as did Lady Cold Circle, and then Maugrim addressed the two women. Daniel passed on a précis of their speech.
“Maugrim’s a typical over-dramatic Evil Overlord,” Daniel said. “He’s just worked out that the translation isn’t working any longer and he’s pissed. The, uh, girl with the piercings is complaining that there isn’t much point in her torturing us if she can’t tell us what she wants to know or understand what we spill.”
“Sensible,” said Jack, “but creepy.”
Daniel bit on his lower lip. “Unfortunately she says she’s more than happy to torture us anyway, for the pleasure of her goddess, although it won’t help Maugrim any.”
“Ah.” Jack bounced his imaginary baseball. “Not good.”
“Lady Cold Circle seems more amused than anything,” Daniel went on. “You know, she doesn’t seem too bad, really.”
“Except for being the Evil Overlord’s henchwoman,” Jack reminded him.
“Good point,” Daniel conceded.
Maugrim’s face was fixed in a stern glower. He strode along the corridor, pausing in front of each set of bars, and glaring at each cell’s occupant in turn. Finally he fixed his gaze on Daniel and spoke slowly and loudly.
“Uh-oh,” Daniel said. “That’s not good.”
“What did he say?” Jack asked.
“He says he knows that I can understand him and, unless I answer his questions, he’s going to give Sam to the minotaurs.”
Jack grimaced. He glanced at the other members of Maugrim’s group. The dominatrix type was pouting, as if a toy she wanted to play with was being taken from her and given to someone else, but Lady Cold Circle was frowning deeply. Jack mentally filed away the woman’s obvious unhappiness at the prospect of Samantha’s fate and turned his attention back to the immediate concern. “Okay, I guess you’d better answer,” he told Daniel, “but vague everything up. Don’t let him know just how well you can speak the lingo.”
“Sure thing,” Daniel said. He spoke to Maugrim, haltingly, in the mash-up of German and Old Welsh that he’d used to Kenadi before she’d come up with the translation effect.
Maugrim gave a cold smile, folded his arms, and addressed Daniel in a long string of words. Rising inflections at the ends of sentences indicated that either he was this planet’s equivalent of an Australian or else he was asking questions.
Daniel replied, pausing frequently as if having difficulty finding the right words, much less fluently than in his last translated conversations with Kenadi. He threw in an occasional English word and Jack had to struggle to keep a straight face at what he heard.
Eventually Maugrim snarled out a reply, spun on his heel, and walked off.
“So, Daniel,” Jack said, “what did you tell him?”
“Uh, that we had traveled through the wardrobe searching for the land of Narnia, where it’s always winter and never Christmas, and we’d kind of gone astray and ended up in pretty much the opposite place,” Daniel replied. “I think he guessed I was jerking his chain but I messed up the language enough so that he couldn’t be sure.”
“And you told him we were Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, right?”
Daniel nodded. “The kids in the Narnia books were two boys and two girls, which didn’t fit, plus I couldn’t remember all their names off the top of my head,” he said, “so I filled in with the characters out of Oz. Except that I didn’t say Cowardly Lion. It didn’t seem right for Teal’c.”
Jack managed to maintain a poker face. “Indeed,” he said. A snort that might have been a suppressed chuckle came from the direction of Sam’s cell and Daniel gave Jack a grin. “You’d better not have cast me as the Scarecrow,” Jack went on.
“No, that was me,” Daniel said. “You were the Tin Man, of course.”
“Of course,” said Jack, grinning back at Daniel. “You think he’s given up on the idea of interrogating us? It won’t exactly get him very far if he can’t understand any of us except you, and you can probably make his head spin round like you do mine.”
“For now, yeah,” Daniel said, “although I bet he can come up with something like Kenadi used. I can’t see it being unique.”
“That’s what I thought. Still, hopefully it’ll take him a while, and we can use that time to figure out how to get out of these cages.” Jack’s grin disappeared and his eyes narrowed. “And then we kill him.”
“Hey!” Jack yelled. “Room service!”
“This is not a hotel, O’Neill,” Teal’c said.
“Yeah, I know, but if they don’t give us something to eat sometime soon I’m going to gnaw off my own leg.”
“Shouting in English is pretty pointless, Jack,” Daniel pointed out. “I’ll yell out a translation, if you like, but I’m not sure it’ll do any good. The skeleton across from Sam is a little hint that they aren’t all that hot on feeding their prisoners.”
“Just do it,” Jack said. Daniel raised his eyebrows but did as Jack requested.
“I figure they won’t let us starve,” Jack said, after Daniel had yelled a few times. The door to the cell block opened as he was speaking. “It would make it pretty hard for Maugrim to get any information out of us if we were just dried out corpses.”
“I wouldn’t count on that,” a female voice said. Lady Cold Circle came into view in the corridor. She wasn’t wearing armor this time but a figure-hugging white gown and a blue cloak. “I can Speak With Dead.”
“Fascinating,” Daniel muttered.
Jack’s eyebrows shot up. “Hey! You’re speaking English.”
“Actually, no,” Lady Cold Circle replied. She touched her fingers to a pendant that hung around her neck. “Maugrim came up with an item that translates.”
“Oh? Can I see?” Daniel asked.
“Hey, I want a look too,” Jack put in. He could see the usefulness of such a device, not only in their present situation but in the future, but primarily he just wanted Lady Cold Circle to come up close to the bars. If he could get her in a finger-lock it would be a whole new ball game, especially if she had a key to the cells…
The looming bulk of a minotaur, clip-clopping along behind the woman, put an end to that idea.
“On second thoughts, I’m not interested,” Jack said. “Show Daniel.”
“Daniel is the handsome one with the glass lenses to improve his vision, am I right?” Lady Cold Circle smiled. “They are of an interesting design that, unlike those with which I am familiar, does not make him unattractive. Quite the reverse.”
“Uh, thanks,” Daniel said.
“I do not think that a visual inspection of the translator will be of benefit to you,” Lady Cold Circle went on, “but I am more than happy to show you.” She stood in front of Daniel’s cell and bent forward, raising her chin, giving Daniel a clear view of the amulet nestled in her cleavage. “Do you like what you see?”
“I’d kind of hoped for a closer inspection,” Daniel said.
“Perhaps that could be arranged,” Lady Cold Circle said, straightening up slowly and fluttering her eyelashes, “after you have given Maugrim the information he desires.”
“Information such as?” Jack put in. “How our weapons work, how to operate the Stargate, that sort of thing, right? It’s not going to happen.”
She turned to face him. “It is. You might as well tell us immediately and save yourself the pain. Maugrim always gets what he wants.”
“What he’s going to get from me,” Jack said, “is a bullet in the face.”
“Where is he, anyway?” Daniel asked.
Lady Cold Circle shrugged. “He is directing the search for a certain item we require. It is none of your concern.” She took a few paces along the corridor, looking in at each of the cells, and then returned to Daniel’s cell again. “I believe you were requesting food?”
Daniel nodded. “If you’re not planning on starving us to death it would be a good idea to feed us.”
“I bear you no ill will,” she replied. “I shall arrange food for you. It will be very… basic, I am afraid. Many of the kitchen staff perished when your late friend, and her companion, attacked this complex.”
Daelan growled out something in his own language. It was not translated; obviously the device at Lady Cold Circle’s throat only worked on things actually said by the lady herself.
“I accept that,” she said to the big man in reply. She talked with Daelan for a minute or so, in a discussion that meant little to Jack, especially as he could only understand one side of the exchange. He occupied himself with juggling his invisible baseball and waited.
“Hey, Lady, we had food in our packs,” Jack said, as soon as the two locals had finished their conversation. “Just pre-packaged military rations, and they taste like crap, but we’re used to them. Dig out the rations, give them to us, and it saves your guys work and keeps us fed. A win-win situation.”
“That seems logical,” Lady Cold Circle said.
“There was a book,” Daniel put in. “Kenadi gave it to me, but Jack took it off me before I could do much reading.”
“Because you kept walking into trees, nerd boy,” Jack reminded him.
“Well, that’s not going to happen now,” Daniel said. “Could I have it back? Pretty please?”
“Yes, if it is innocuous,” Lady Cold Circle agreed. “If it is ‘A Hundred Ways To Escape Prison’, then the answer is no.”
“From what I’d seen of it, it’s a guide to your world’s religions,” Daniel told her.
“If that is truly the case then I agree,” she replied, “although I must point out that, if it was written in Neverwinter, it will not be objective about the worship of Auril. In return, however, you must answer one question for me.”
“That kind of depends what the question is,” Jack said, pre-empting whatever answer Daniel would have given. “If it’s ‘How do we conquer Earth?’ then you can take the book, and the rations, and shove them.”
“I was merely going to ask from which country, or world, or plane you came from,” the Lady said. “It seems you have already answered that. Earth. I have heard of that world. It is said that our ancestors, and even some of our gods, originated on Earth thousands of years ago. More recently the bard who gave Shar, Umberlee, and Talona their new hymns came from there.”
“Oh. That’s pretty much what brought us here,” Jack said. “We found out there’d been contact between our worlds that we hadn’t known about. So, who is the guy who taught your guys We’re Not Gonna Take It?”
“I gather that his name is Giles,” she replied, “but word of him comes from hundreds of miles to the south of here and I know little. Songs travel, passed on from bard to bard, further than do their singers.”
“Especially as you probably don’t have tour buses here,” Jack said. He saw a crease appear between Lady Cold Circle’s eyebrows. “Hey, don’t worry about it. So, the food?”
“And the book,” Daniel added.
“Very well,” she said. “I shall have both food and book brought to you.”
“Great,” Jack said. “The rations are in packs, made of metal foil, labeled ‘MRE’ and ‘Meal, Ready to Eat, Individual’. Oh, and there are blocks of food concentrate too. They taste vile but contain a lot of energy. They’re labeled ‘C4’.”
“Okay,” Jack said, “so they’re playing ‘Good cop, bad cop’. She’s the good cop.” He paused to eat a little Beef Teriyaki. “My guess is the bad cop will be next.”
“Miss Whiplash,” Carter said.
“Unless the Lord Voldemort wannabe comes back to do the interrogation himself,” Daniel said.
“Either way it’s not going to be fun,” Jack said, “but at least we won’t be facing it on an empty stomach. And we have coffee. It might be the mediocre beverage pack version but it will stave off caffeine deprivation.”
“Nice work getting the C4, sir,” Sam praised, “although, without detonators, I’m not sure how much use it’s going to be.”
“Rigging a detonator is your job, Carter,” Jack said. “Do you still have your watch?”
“No, sir,” Sam replied. “You obviously didn’t notice, but Lady Cold Circle was wearing it.” She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “That’s a pretty stupid name for a girl, anyway, isn’t it?”
“I think it’s a title, not a name,” Daniel said. “I’ve found a bit about the Church of Auril...”
“Daniel,” Jack said, “put the book down for a while and eat something, okay?”
“I can read while I’m eating,” Daniel said.
With the bars keeping them apart Jack couldn’t go over and smack Daniel upside the head, the only real way of stopping him from reading, and so Jack didn’t bother pushing it. “So, Carter, a detonator?”
“I don’t know, sir,” Sam replied. “If I had my watch, which I don’t, I could make a timer, but for the actual detonator… well, you’re the one who looks like MacGyver.”
“Unfortunately the operative words in that sentence are ‘looks like’,” Jack said. “Can you rig something out of the chemical heater in the MREs?”
“That would be a no,” Sam said. “The best I could do, with the materials in the cell, would be to light the C4 on fire. If you come up with a plan that needs unpleasant toxic smoke I’ll go ahead. Otherwise it’s not worth it.”
“Crap. Oh, well, better us having the C4 than them, even if we can’t use it right now,” Jack said. “Maybe something will turn up. On the plus side, working out where to place the charges gave me an idea for a better way of getting through the doors than sawing through the bars. It’s still going to take time but probably only a few days.”
“That’s great, sir!” Sam exclaimed.
“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed.
“This is incredible!” Daniel said.
“Going a little over the top there, aren’t you, Danny boy?” Jack commented. “Or didn’t you think I can have good ideas?”
“What was that, Jack?” Daniel approached the bars of his cell, book in hand, and peered out. “I was kind of absorbed in the book. Did you say something?”
Jack took a break from sawing away at the hasp of the door lock, now almost at the point where a hard blow would snap the remaining metal, and ran a hand over his chin. “I could use a shave,” he remarked. It was hard to keep track of the passage of time, with their watches taken and no windows to admit daylight, but he estimated that they’d been captives now for two days. “I’m starting to get a little prickly here.”
“I also, O’Neill,” Teal’c said. “A perceptible growth of hair is now present on my head. It is no longer pristine.”
“I’m getting stubbly too,” Daniel chimed in. “Somewhat Indiana Jones, perhaps, but I wouldn’t turn down a shave if I got the chance.”
“In case your flirting with the Ice Queen moves on to the making out stage?” Jack grinned as Daniel stammered out a denial of the possibility. “Yeah, whatever, Space Indy. They’re not going to pass out any razors so we’ll just have to live with it. All of us are going to get a bit scratchy. Except Carter. She doesn’t have that problem.”
“Actually, sir, that’s not exactly true,” Sam put in.
“Oh,” Jack said. “Uh, right.”
“My legs, sir,” Sam went on. “Just what were you thinking?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Jack said. “Your legs. Of course.”
The sound of the cell block door opening broke Jack’s chain of thought. He coiled the wire saw, slipped it into a pocket, and retreated back to the inner wall of the cell. His nose wrinkled as the smell from the grating in the corner, the cell’s only toilet, renewed its assault upon his senses as he moved back into close proximity. He ignored it and went into his imaginary baseball-bouncing routine.
He’d expected the arrival to be Lady Cold Circle. She’d made several visits so far, behaving in a reasonably friendly manner to all of SG-1 and treating Daelan with polite respect, but concentrating her attention on Daniel. How much of it was part of her ‘good cop’ role and how much was genuine attraction was difficult to judge but, Jack guessed, at least some of it was real. It certainly provided scope for teasing Daniel and that was about the only amusement available in their confined state.
It wasn’t her. Instead it was the leather-clad chick with the facial piercings who entered, accompanied by two minotaurs, and made her way to Daniel’s cell. “You’re the one Melmyrna fancies, aren’t you?” the woman said. She was obviously either wearing Lady Cold Circle’s translation amulet or had another of her own. “I can see the attraction,” she continued. “Handsome and intelligent. Unfortunately for you the only attribute that interests me in a man is his pain threshold.”
“Oh crap,” Jack said. “Bad cop time.”
“Take this one,” the woman ordered the minotaurs. She used a key to open the lock of Daniel’s cell door, stood aside, and waited as the massive creatures entered and seized Daniel. They dragged him out and frog-marched him along the corridor.
“You’re wasting your time,” Daniel said, as he was hustled along. “I’m a stranger on this world. I don’t know anything about this war you seem to be having. Even if I talk it won’t mean anything to you.”
“Oh, that’s quite alright,” the girl said, her tone cheerful. “Torturing people is my religious duty. There’s no requirement for you to actually divulge any useful information. That’s Maugrim’s problem. I just want to hear you scream.”
Jack filled in the time while Daniel was away by working away at the door hasp. He had hoped that the noise of the wire saw rasping on steel would drown out Daniel’s distant screams. It didn’t.
Eventually he was satisfied that he’d cut sufficiently far through to be able to snap the remaining metal, and burst the door open, as soon as he judged the moment to be right. He considered passing the saw on to Teal’c but decided to wait. Transferring the saw would involve some fiddly maneuvering, sticking their arms out through the bars of the doors and swinging the wire saw until Teal’c could grab it, and it might not be easy to pull back quickly if the guards brought Daniel back right in the middle of the operation.
Jack sat back against the wall and waited. Time dragged on, punctuated by muffled screams and, chillingly, an occasional faint sound of feminine giggles, until after what was probably between two and three hours the corridor door swung open once more.
The woman with the metal-bedecked face strutted in, a broad smile on her face, and her hands and forearms smeared with red up to her elbows. She was followed by a single minotaur, holding Daniel by an ankle, and it dragged him along the floor. Daniel was semi-naked, his head lolled limp on his neck, and his body bore scores of cuts and blisters. Red streaks on the flagstones marked his trail.
Jack was on his feet and at the door grille before he even realized he was moving. “You are going to pay for this,” Jack said. “That’s not a threat, it’s a promise. I’m going to kill you, bitch.”
The woman turned her head and smiled at him. Her eyes, like those of Lady Cold Circle, were blue. Jack would have expected to see something crazy in them, some reflection of the sick personality inside, but in fact they seemed perfectly normal. “I don’t think so. The opposite, rather. I was going to choose who would be next by throwing dice but you’ve just moved yourself to the head of the queue. Congratulations.”
“I also vow vengeance against you, woman,” Teal’c put in.
“Me too,” Sam added her voice. “You are going to get your ass kicked.”
“Oh?” The torturer walked over to Sam’s cell, staying far enough back to be out of reach of a grasping arm, and looked in at her. “Do you threaten me with pain?”
“That’s the general idea,” Sam said.
The woman laughed. “You have no idea to whom you speak, do you?” She put her hand to her face, took hold of one of the piercings, and pulled. Her cheek stretched out until eventually the piercing tore free. Blood ran down her cheek, along her chin, and dripped onto her leathers. She ran her tongue around her mouth, revealing that it too was pierced, and licked at the blood. “I live for pain,” she purred. “To one such as I, initiated into the highest mysteries of Loviatar, pain is pleasure.”
“Okay, so you’re sick as well as a psycho,” Jack said.
The woman strolled over to stand in front of Jack’s cell. She touched a finger to her bloody cheek, murmured something too quietly for Jack to make out, and lowered her hand. Jack narrowed his eyes. It looked as if her cheek was now unmarked except for the trail of blood. The bleeding appeared to have stopped. The woman fiddled with the metal bar that she had ripped out, unscrewing one end and scraping the point clean with her fingernails, and then took hold of her cheek. She forced the bar through skin and flesh, starting a new flow of blood, and rolled her head. She licked her lips, uttered a low moan, and then screwed the retainer onto the bar. She pressed her finger to her cheek under the piercing, muttered under her breath again, and once more the bleeding stopped.
“Fascinating,” Daniel croaked from the floor, as the minotaur dragged him past the woman. He received a kick in the face as a response.
“Dump him back in his cage,” the torturer commanded the minotaur. She unlocked the door, watched as her command was obeyed, and then turned back to Jack. “I’ll come back later to entertain another of you,” she said. “Probably you, because you are annoying, but it might be the girl. Or the taciturn dark one, to see if he can maintain his brevity of speech when his skin is being peeled away, or perhaps Daniel again. That would upset Melmyrna and that’s always amusing.”
“Yeah, well, feel free to take your time,” Jack said. “It’s not like we’re not going anywhere.”
“Correct,” she said. “Unless, of course, you decide to place your knowledge at Maugrim’s disposal, in which case you would become honored guests instead of prisoners. He might even allow you to take vengeance against me for my treatment of your friend. A flogging, perhaps. Wouldn’t you like to lay a lash across my naked back?”
Jack could see welts on Daniel’s back, obviously made by a whip, and strange red blistered patches that were the exact size and shape of the psycho girl’s hands with fingers outspread. “It’s tempting,” he said, “but knowing you’d enjoy it would make it a little pointless. I think I’ll pass.”
If it was acting it was worthy of an Oscar, or at least a Golden Globe, Jack thought. Lady Cold Circle’s eyes were moist with tears and her lip trembled as she spoke.
Daniel could only groan in reply. Lady Cold Circle took out a key and opened his cell door.
She was alone, no minotaurs in sight, and she wasn’t wearing her armor. Jack considered throwing his weight against his door, snapping the sawn-through lock hasp, grabbing the key from her and letting everyone out. The snag was that Daniel was in no shape to move. Lady Cold Circle would be no pushover anyway, as she had displayed dangerous and inexplicable abilities during the fight in which SG-1 had been captured, and if Jack tried a break now and failed they probably wouldn’t get another chance. Reluctantly Jack decided to stick with his original plan and wait until all the locks had been sawn through.
Lady Cold Circle knelt down beside Daniel. She set down the pillow-sized bundle that she was carrying, produced a roll of bandage, and unwound part of it. “I’m sorry I have to do this,” she said softly, “but I can’t trust you yet not to attack me once you’re healed.” She began to wrap the bandage around Daniel’s arms, fastening them together, and once she had done that she got out another bandage roll and did the same to his legs.
“What are you playing at, lady?” Jack asked, his tone sharp. “Your friend the Mistress of Pain gets her kicks out of hurting people. Do you get yours out of tying people up? Isn’t anyone in this place just, you know, normal?”
“Vhonna is no friend of mine,” she replied, looking across at Jack, “and this gives me no pleasure.” She lowered her eyes to Daniel again. “You are brave as well as handsome,” she said, “and I wish we had met in different circumstances. Be healed.” She touched her fingers to his forehead.
Jack’s jaw dropped. He narrowed his eyes and squinted to be sure that he was seeing what he thought he was seeing.
“You should be able to free yourself of the bandages easily enough,” Lady Cold Circle told Daniel. “There are clean clothes for you in the sack. If you stuff the empty sack with straw it may do you service as a pillow. I wish there was more that I could do for you but, for the moment, that is all I can do. Rest now.”
Yes, Jack really had seen it. The lacerations, bruises, and burns were all gone from Daniel’s skin. Lady Cold Circle had healed him with a brief verbal command. Compared to this the Tok’ra healing devices were clumsy and inefficient.
“Thanks,” Daniel said, his voice back to normal. “You couldn’t, uh, bring me my glasses, could you? I left them behind in the torture chamber.”
“They are in the sack atop the clothes,” Lady Cold Circle told him. “Next time she comes for you I would advise you to leave them behind in the cell.”
“What’s she doing to him?” asked Sam, who could hear what was going on but could see nothing.
“She has healed him,” Teal’c informed her. “Most interesting.”
“Interesting is one way of putting it,” Jack said. He wondered how much of Lady Cold Circle’s concern was genuine and how much was her playing the ‘good cop’ role to the hilt. She wasn’t asking any questions this time but if she did, perhaps after another torture session or two, Daniel could well slip up and let out some answers.
Lady Cold Circle dipped down, pressed her lips briefly to Daniel’s forehead, and then stood up. “Goodbye, Daniel,” she said. She left the cell, locked the door again, and headed for the cell block exit.
It opened before she reached it. Miss Whiplash strode through, smirking, followed by the two minotaurs and the big Elk Tribe barbarian. There was someone else behind them but Jack’s view was obscured by what was virtually a wall of muscle.
“Haven’t you had enough ‘entertainment’ for one evening, Vhonna?” Lady Cold Circle asked. Icy contempt was evident in her tone.
“This is not for my amusement only. Lord Maugrim has received some news,” Vhonna replied, “and it reminded him that there were questions he had neglected to ask. Oh, don’t worry, Melmyrna, I won’t be playing with your precious toy.”
“I doubt that it will please him if you take one of his comrades in his place,” Lady Cold Circle, whose real name appeared to be Melmyrna, said.
“In that case he, and presumably you also, will be relieved to hear that I have no such intention.”
Jack realized her meaning at once. She’d brought two minotaurs as escort when she came for Daniel; the extra back-up had to mean that this time she was after one of the big men, Teal’c or Daelan, and therefore it was Daelan who had drawn the short straw.
“It was my impression that you believed the half-orc barbarian to be no more than a mindless brute,” said Lady Cold Circle, who had obviously made the same deduction as Jack, “and not worth the effort of interrogation.”
“As long as he feels pain it is worthwhile,” the other woman said. “Maugrim believes he knows something.”
“I shall leave you to it, then,” Lady Cold Circle said. She wove her way between the massive guards and left the prison.
Vhonna the dominatrix went to Daelan’s cell. “Put your arms out through the bars, Red Tiger,” she commanded.
Daelan spoke in reply. Jack guessed that it was a refusal.
“Fyrvos, to me,” Vhonna ordered. The minotaurs moved to allow someone to pass through from behind.
Jack’s jaw dropped for about the tenth time since he’d arrived on this planet. He was beginning to think that it would save time just to keep it hanging down almost touching his chest. The newcomer was a little man, hardly more than four feet tall, but broad in proportion. The short man’s head was bald but a bushy white beard adorned his chin. His skin was gray.
The dwarf – the guy had to be a dwarf, straight out of Fantasy land, he couldn’t be anything else – was holding a crossbow. He aimed it through the cell bars at Daelan.
“If you do not do as I say he will simply shoot you,” Vhonna told the barbarian. “When you are too weak from loss of blood to resist we will take you anyway.”
Daelan grunted out a reply, moved to the bars, and extended his arms as ordered. The minotaurs grabbed them. Jaevgrim the Elk Tribe barbarian joined them and, after a brief and apparently heated discussion, added his strength to that of one of the minotaurs and broke Daelan’s right arm. The procedure was repeated with the left. Vhonna then opened up the door and Daelan, crippled and unable to fight back, was hustled away.
“They don’t seem to take chances,” Sam remarked, once the cell block door had closed. “That was… brutal.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed.
“Hey, Teal’c, buddy,” Jack said. “It would probably be a good idea not to give away quite how strong you are. You can’t hide your size but don’t let them see that you’re stronger than a Taur’i would be.”
“That is wise advice, O’Neill,” Teal’c said. “I do not wish my arms to be broken. I shall do as you say.”
Jack nodded, pointlessly as Teal’c couldn’t see him, and fished the wire saw out of his pocket. It would be a good idea to find an alternative hiding place for it in future, he decided, rather than in clothes that might be ripped off during interrogations. Daniel was now wearing breeches and a tunic, provided by Lady Cold Circle, and his BDUs were somewhere unknown. Jack stuck his hand out of the bars on the closest side to Teal’c and began to swing the saw. “Grab it, Teal’c, and get to cutting,” he said. “If someone comes stash it under the straw. You should be able to do an hour or so of sawing while they’re working on the big guy. The sooner we get out of this place the better.”
They brought Daelan back after perhaps an hour, more dead than alive, in an even worse state than Daniel had been. Lady Cold Circle arrived later and healed him, including somehow resetting the broken limbs; this time, unlike with Daniel, by reaching through the bars until she could touch Daelan’s foot and then snatching her hand back quickly. Obviously she regarded the huge barbarian as too dangerous for her to enter the cage at all.
She exchanged some brief words with him; it wasn’t easy to follow a conversation when only one side was comprehensible, it was a little like listening to someone across the room talking on the telephone, but Jack picked up that there was a degree of mutual respect between the two. They were on opposite sides of a war and that was pretty much it. If this world had a Geneva Convention she’d follow it.
“Take a seat,” Maugrim offered. “Would you like a cup of tea? Or coffee?”
“I’ll take coffee,” Jack said, sitting down in the indicated chair. He was a little surprised at the Evil Overlord apparently playing the ‘good cop’ part but he was all in favor of postponing the stage where they got out the hot irons. Also, he wasn’t going to turn down caffeine. Maybe it was drugged but they could always pour it down his throat with a funnel. Drinking it in a civilized fashion would be a lot less unpleasant.
“Colonel Jack O’Neill,” Maugrim said, as a serving wench with a traditionally large bosom dished out cups of coffee. “I gather that you are a respected warrior in your own land.”
“You could say that,” Jack said. He cast an appraising eye over Maugrim’s bodyguard. A woman, clad in plate armor, armed with a honking big sword. She wasn’t quite human; she had the same long, pointed, ears as the girl who had killed Kenadi. Her skin was the pinkish shade of a European, instead of Cierre’s jet black, and she was several inches shorter than the woman Jack had last seen bleeding to death in the snow.
Jack was mainly interested in assessing her combat capability. He was all in favor of grabbing Maugrim and trying to twist his arm off at the shoulder, as long as the Evil Overlord didn’t do the intangibility trick that he had used to avoid getting riddled with 5.7 mm bullets, but there didn’t seem much point if it would only get him a closer acquaintance with the pointy end of a sword. Unfortunately her stance, and the effortless way she held that big honking Fantasy sword, led him to the deduction that she was in the same league as the late Kenadi. A face-full of hot coffee would cramp her style more than somewhat; unfortunately the psycho torturer Vhonna and her pet minotaurs were waiting outside the room.
Reluctantly Jack concluded that there was no realistic prospect of mounting a successful escape attempt and that attacking Maugrim, although it would give him some immediate satisfaction, wouldn’t help the overall situation. He decided to play along with the Evil Overlord for the moment.
“Okay, so I’m a respected warrior,” Jack said. “At least the US Air Force respects me enough to pay me and give me a nice uniform. What’s your point?”
“We met in unfortunate circumstances,” Maugrim said. “You were in the company of my enemy and thus I gave you a hostile reception. Had I realized that your group are in fact strangers to this world, and not party to the conflict between Luskan and Neverwinter, you would have been treated with more courtesy.”
“Now, that’s odd,” Jack said, “seeing as how I remember you referring to us as ‘strangers’ and talking about getting us to reveal the ‘mysteries of the portal’ when you captured us. And right after you chopped off the head of a girl who’d gone out of her way to be friendly and helpful to us. That kind of sticks in the mind.”
“We are fighting a war against a ruthless and militarily superior foe,” Maugrim said. “Consequently we have been forced into, on occasion, committing acts that are equally ruthless.” He leant forward, with his elbows on the desk, and steepled his fingers. “Now, if you were to assist us, and put your skills and weapons at our disposal, we could bring a swift end to this war and restore peace to the North.”
“Don’t tell me,” Jack said, “let me guess. You want us to tell you how to use the Gate to put a force behind enemy lines. Maybe us in person, maybe some of your people with our weapons, to launch a decapitating,” he grimaced as he remembered Kenadi’s head rolling across the ground, “strike against the Neverwinter command structure. Am I warm?”
Maugrim nodded. “Castle Never is warded against conventional teleportation but the song portals work on different principles. With Lord Nasher and his guards out of the picture Neverwinter’s resistance would collapse.”
“And everything would be happiness and joy and fluffy bunnies? Yeah, right.”
“Nasher is an incompetent and brutal ruler,” the woman bodyguard put in. She took a couple of paces to the side, and then back again, and Jack noticed something strange.
Her boobs jiggled. She was wearing plate armor and yet they actually bounced. Jack took a closer look. The breastplate of the armor was definitely a breast plate. Separately articulated. It even seemed to have an arrangement of flat springs to enhance the bounce.
“I served Nasher loyally for years,” the woman continued, “and yet he had my beloved executed for mere political expedience. He must die.”
Jack took a slow sip of the coffee. It was pretty good. Not just a plant resembling coffee but the real thing. Imported from Earth along with the ancestors of the humans, presumably. “I don’t know the guy,” Jack said, “and we don’t get involved in internal disputes. If you want to kill him that’s your business.” He set the cup down. “You think we’ll help you? Bite my shiny metal ass. No, wait, you’re the one with the shiny metal ass. Eat my shorts.”
“Your what?” The pointed-eared woman’s elegantly-shaped eyebrows climbed high.
“It means we are not going to help you. We’re not going to fight on your side. We’re not going to teach your guys how to use our weapons. We’re not going to teach you how to use the Stargate. And, if you think you can use it to get behind your enemies’ lines, forget it. It doesn’t work that way.”
“The song portals of Illefarn linked one to another,” Maugrim insisted.
“Well, maybe the one we came out of is a different kind of portal,” Jack said.
“Even so, the principles behind it must be the same,” Maugrim said, talking more to himself than to Jack. He fixed his gaze directly on Jack’s eyes and adopted a smile. “There is so much that you could teach us. In return we could give you gold, gems, land – whatever material goods you desire.”
“Naqahdah?” Maugrim’s blank look was all the answer Jack needed. He shook his head. “You’ve got nothing we want,” he said, “and we wouldn’t trade with a cut-price Voldemort knock-off like you even if you had naqahdah coming out of your ears.”
Maugrim showed his teeth for a second and then his smile reappeared. “Then out of good will, in the interests of friendship between our peoples,” he said. His tone seemed to drip honey.
“Are you freaking serious?” Jack raised his eyes to the heavens and brought them down in time to catch a flash of light in Maugrim’s eyes. Not the golden glow of Goa’uld possession but perhaps something similar. Jack put that together with the syrupy tone of voice, as smooth as Kinsey talking to the media or buttering up voters, and guessed what was happening. The weasel was trying some form of mind control, hypnosis, or subliminal influence. Now that he was aware of it Jack was conscious of a sensation somewhere at the back of his mind as if he was being urged to go along with anything Maugrim said. Yeah, right. Jack had been there before. It wasn’t hard to ignore the urgings; all he had to do was remember all the other times he’d experienced mind games, such as from Hathor more than once, Seth’s nish’ta drug, and Administrator Calder’s little subterranean slave labor camp. Not a fun time.
“Be reasonable,” Maugrim went on. “I am not your enemy. I desire only to bring peace and order to this wild region. Please, put your great wisdom and knowledge at my disposal to aid me in this worthy task.”
Playing along might get some useful information and it would postpone the inevitable trip to Vhonna Queen of Pain’s torture chamber. “Well, I guess maybe I could give your people a few pointers,” Jack conceded. “I wouldn’t want them to kill themselves playing with the P-90s.” Actually Jack would stand up and cheer if Maugrim’s minions blew their own heads off, even more if they accidentally put a dozen bullets through Maugrim at groin level, but Jack managed to keep his voice sounding reasonably sincere.
“Excellent, my friend,” Maugrim said, grinning. “I shall arrange that later. First, perhaps, you might be able to clear up a small point. Did Kenadi Nefret mention, in the time that you were traveling together, anything about a Word of Power?”
“Nope,” Jack answered. “Should she have done?” It occurred to him that he might not be being respectful enough if he was supposed to be being influenced by Maugrim’s mind control, or whatever, considered adding ‘Master’, decided that it would be going a little too far the other way, and compromised. “Lord Maugrim,” he tagged onto the end of his question.
“Did you, then, perhaps notice any stone tablets in her possession?” Maugrim continued. “This big,” he made a shape with his hands, “and engraved with symbols.”
“If Daniel had seen any engraved stone tablets you’d have had to pry them out of his cold dead hands,” Jack said. “No, Lord Maugrim, we saw nothing like that.”
Maugrim kept the smile on his lips but his brows creased in a frown. “Then where could they be?” he muttered, thinking aloud rather than speaking to Jack.
“Did you look in her pack?” Jack asked. “Uh, Lord Maugrim.”
“What did you say?” asked the woman with the spring-loaded breasts.
“Her back-pack,” Jack said. “You weren’t there, but she wore a big back-pack. Must have weighed, oh, fifty pounds easy. She put it down when she had to fight that black girl. There it was, right on the ground, just ‘three miles from a fort of Neverwinter’ according to Kenadi, with a whole load of blood and dead bodies scattered around to draw people’s attention, and it could have been full of stone tablets for all I know.” He raised his eyebrows. “Did you even look at it?”
The woman stared at Maugrim. “Is that right? Did you leave her pack unexamined?”
“I had no way of knowing that one of the Words had already been found,” Maugrim said, sounding defensive. “I wanted it to seem that the Hero of Neverwinter’s death was due to a mere chance encounter, not an ambush, and that Cierre was primarily responsible. There was no time to search the pack and taking it would have spoiled the impression I wished to create.”
“Morag will be severely displeased if you have let a Word slip through your fingers,” the woman stated.
Jack lost it. “Oh, man,” he said, a chuckle slipping past his lips, “here am I thinking you’re the Dark Lord and you’re just a minion. Not Darth Vader, not Emperor Palpatine, just the Grand Moff Tarkin. And you screwed up. You had the thing she’s looking for – Morag is a she, am I right? – in your hands and you didn’t notice. You left it laying out there right in your enemies’ back yard. Man, she is going to be pissed.”
The pointy-eared woman frowned and tapped the amulet that hung just above her armor-clad breasts. “Much of that was incomprehensible. Is this thing working properly?”
Maugrim’s fake smile had disappeared and been replaced by a scowl. “I believe so, Lady Aribeth. It is not a question of translation. Doubtless he refers to personages of his own world and their names mean nothing to us. What is more important is that my Charm spell has obviously failed.”
“Damn, and I was stringing you along so well,” Jack said. “I was just about to start calling you ‘Master’.”
“A humorist.” Maugrim gave a tight little smile. “We shall see how long your humor survives under the ministrations of Vhonna Truescar.”
Vhonna ran her fingernails along Jack’s naked stomach, through his pubic hair, and along his penis. “Interesting mutilation,” she commented. “I noticed the same on Daniel. A tribal custom, I take it?”
“You could say that,” Jack said. Being naked, with an attractive (even with her piercings) woman fondling his genitals, was a lot less fun in practice than it sounded in theory. Of course being chained to a table was something of a downer, unless your tastes ran that way and Jack’s didn’t, but it was the knowledge that Vhonna was a raving psychopath which was the real passion-killer. That and the smell of irons heating in the fire.
“Before we start,” Vhonna said, “I have to give you the chance to avoid this. Will you agree to teach Maugrim’s soldiers how to use your weapons? Or, alternatively, agree to use them on his behalf in an attack upon the Citadel of Neverwinter?”
“Sure, I’d be happy to give them a demonstration,” Jack said.
“Of course,” Vhonna said, “certain precautions would have to be taken to make sure that you carried out the task in the correct spirit. Your friend Daniel, or perhaps the woman, suspended over a pit of spikes – no, a pool of acid, so that no resurrection would be possible – in such fashion that simply releasing a rope, should you use your weapons against us, would send him, or her, plummeting to an agonizing death.”
“In that case,” Jack said, “I’ll have to pass.”
“Oh, good.” Vhonna beamed. “I hoped you’d say that.”
“Huh? You don’t want me to help Maugrim?”
“Of course I don’t,” Vhonna said. “What do I care about his plans of conquest? The Wailing Death infuriated Talona, and thus amused my goddess, but apart from that I’m not even interested. I’m only here for the torture. Speaking of which,” she reached behind her and produced a wooden-handled metal rod with a tip glowing cherry red, “it’s about time we started.”
She seized Jack’s penis, held it so that the glans protruded clear of her gripping hand, and touched the rod to the vulnerable flesh. The shock made Jack think his heart was stopping. He cried out.
Vhonna burst into laughter. She pulled the rod back, lifted it to her face, and pressed it against the end of her nose. At about the same time Jack realized that the pain was nowhere near as severe as he had first thought.
“Your face!” Vhonna spluttered. “Oh, if you could only see yourself!” She took the rod away from her nose, revealing it to be completely unmarked, and licked the glowing tip. “It’s a minor Light spell,” she said. “The rod was chilled on a bed of ice cubes. The pain was just your imagination.”
“Ha, ha, bitch, very funny,” Jack growled.
“Yes, wasn’t it?” Vhonna’s amused grin grew even wider. “Now this,” she half-turned and picked up another glowing rod, “is the real thing.” She brought it down on Jack’s belly. The initial sensation was not unlike that from the chilled rod but, as the smell of burning hair and flesh reached Jack’s nose, the pain hit with full force. Jack couldn’t stop himself from screaming.
“That’s what I like to hear,” Vhonna said. She spat on the steel to check that it was still red-hot, grinned as the spittle boiled off in an instant, and then applied it to the soles of Jack’s feet. “Make me happy, Colonel Jack. Scream for me again.”
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.