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 and monsters, torture, and sudden, brutal, death. This chapter is 10,000 words, rating R.
Debt Of Blood
Part 6: Angels and Demons
Maugrim’s people seemed to be really serious about guarding the Stargate. There had been over a hundred well-armed men around it when SG-1 and their new friends had arrived. Quite a few of the enemy were dead now, and corpses littered the red-stained snow, but there was still a large contingent remaining.
Jack fired single shots and short bursts, trying to pick off the archers and the wizards, leaving the swordsmen and the spearmen to the devastating close combat abilities of Teal’c, Daelan, and Cierre. Daniel and Sam covered the flanks, shooting anyone who tried to get round behind the others. Little Tomi was spotting for Jack, warning him of any invisible opponents, and Sharwyn… was singing.
Shrieking, rather, something Heavy Metal-ish, and somehow managing to make her acoustic accompaniment sound like a heavily distorted electric guitar. Jack could barely make out the lyrics above the sound of gunfire, and the screams of the dying, but he could see the effects of the song; a vicious flurry of giant hailstones, some as big as baseballs, hurtling down from the sky in a tight column centered on the enemy, and hitting hard enough to knock some of the advancing men from their feet and forcing others to cover their faces and stumble along blindly. A tight phalanx of twenty-odd spearmen, formidable opposition even for highly skilled warriors, was disintegrating into a rabble. Seven mounted knights failed to control their horses and retreated in confusion.
“Snowballed,” Sharwyn screeched, “Yes you have,
Suddenly her voice and guitar playing chopped off abruptly. Jack flicked a glance in Sharwyn’s direction, fearing that she’d been hit by an arrow, but she seemed to be unwounded. Her hand moved across her guitar strings, and her lips were moving, but no sound emerged. Jack turned to face the enemy once more, saw that the hailstorm had come to an abrupt halt when Sharwyn fell silent, and squeezed off a shot at a crossbowman who was bringing his weapon to the aim. Jack turned his attention back to Sharwyn. The girl singer had laid down her guitar on the ground and pulled her sword-staff thing, shrunk down somehow to flashlight size, out of her pants pocket. She twirled the weapon and it expanded out to its full six-foot length.
Sam’s pistol was empty. She backed away from the battle, needing a moment to reload, and a pair of mail-clad warriors charged at her with broadswords raised. Sharwyn ran to intercept them. She blocked one man’s sword stroke with the center of her staff, twisted, and raked a blade across his legs. The man went down in a welter of blood, his face twisted in an eerie silent scream, and Sharwyn brought the other blade around and delivered the coup de grâce. Sam avoided the other man’s blow with ease, lashed out with a kick as he stumbled off balance, and sent him sprawling on his face in the snow. Sharwyn stabbed him in the back before he could recover. Sam completed her reload and fired at another attacker. The shot made no sound at all and, if it hadn’t been for the sight of the Luskan man-at-arms falling and lying still, Jack would have assumed it had been a misfire.
Jack scanned his surroundings and saw that the spear phalanx was recovering its cohesion. Another half-minute without Sharwyn’s hailstone bombardment and it would be a force to be reckoned with again. A single grenade would smash it apart but he had no grenades. Improvising something out of what was left of the C4 would take too long. He glanced down at the translucent magazine of his P-90. Half empty. Still, twenty-five rounds would tear up the phalanx badly, maybe even make them break and run, and the close combat experts should be able to cope with what was left. Jack raised the P-90 and took aim.
“Wizard, just to the left of that…” Tomi began, his gaze focused through the magical gem at the area close to the DHD. He didn’t finish his warning.
Jack was beginning to understand some of the rules behind this world’s technology, or magic, or whatever. The kind of invisibility they used was disrupted when the invisible person attacked. He looked across just in time to see a robed guy with a pointy hat, standing close to the DHD, pop into view. A glowing orange streak of light was shooting out from the wizard’s hand and approaching rapidly. Jack had a horrible feeling that he knew exactly what it was. A big honking fireball.
“Incoming! Everybody down!” he yelled, and threw himself to the ground.
Tomi and Daniel were the only ones who followed suit. Teal’c, Daelan, and Cierre remained upright on sound tactical principles; face down in the dirt was the worst possible place to be in a sword-fight, and their only option was to rely on their proximity to the wizard’s allies and hope they weren’t targeted. Sam and Sharwyn stayed up for a different reason. The blanket of silence around Sharwyn meant that they simply didn’t hear the warning.
Jack felt a wave of heat wash over him, the back of his neck and his hands searing with sudden pain, and then it was gone and he’d suffered nothing worse than the equivalent of bad sunburn. He scrambled up and checked the situation.
The fireball had encompassed Cierre and the two men she’d been fighting but, somehow, she was completely untouched. Her opponents hadn’t been so lucky; they were pillars of flame, a gruesomely literal example of ‘Friendly Fire’, and the rapid sweeps of Cierre’s sword and axe that silenced their screams were acts of mercy. Sharwyn had come out unscathed as well.
Sam was a human torch.
She burned from head to foot, flames enveloping her in a deadly shroud, gyrating in a silent dance of death.
Jack felt terror sweeping through him and he rushed towards her. “Sam!” he cried, all thoughts of military propriety driven from his mind.
Sharwyn had already acted. She hurled herself at Sam, swept her up, and carried her out of the green circle where the fireball had vaporized the snow. Sharwyn, her own clothes charring now, rolled Sam in the snow to put out the flames.
Jack halted. There wasn’t anything he could do for Sam that Sharwyn wasn’t doing already – except wreak vengeance. He brought the P-90 up to his shoulder and located on the wizard. The man was, incongruously, in the act of taking a drink from some sort of flask. Jack lined up the sights but, even as he squeezed the trigger, his target disappeared.
“Crap,” Jack grunted under his breath, but then he saw that he hadn’t missed. The wizard reappeared in the sights, his face under the pointy hat a mask of blood, and staggered sideways to crash into the DHD and fall to the ground.
Immediately Jack turned his gaze back to Sam. Sharwyn had extinguished the flames and was trying to get Sam to drink something – a healing potion, presumably – but Sam seemed to be in too much pain to understand and was thrashing around wildly. Jack was about to go to her assistance when a shout from Tomi brought his attention back to the battle.
“Cavalry!” the little man yelled. “Fuck, and Sharwyn’s silenced.”
The knights were coming back. Seven of them, in a full charge, lances leveled and aiming straight for Daelan and Teal’c. Meanwhile the spear phalanx was approaching at a quick march.
“I’m on it,” Jack said. He aimed for the charging horses and let loose on full auto, heedless of ammunition expenditure, ripping horses and men apart in a storm of lead. Horses screamed, an even more chilling sound than the screams of the men, and crashed to the ground. Knights fell dead or wounded. When the P-90 ran dry there was only one knight still coming.
Teal’c sidestepped the knight’s lance thrust and struck at the horse. The rider pulled on the reins and the horse halted, reared, and kicked out at Teal’c with its fore-hooves. Daelan got behind the horse and swung his double-axe at its right rear leg. The limb buckled and the horse toppled over, pinning the rider under its body in its fall, struggling and screaming and grinding the knight into the ground as it tried to rise. Teal’c chopped into its neck with his two-handed sword and its struggles ceased.
Cierre threw something into the middle of the spear phalanx, presumably something like a grenade, and there was an explosion and a flash of fire. It wasn’t particularly powerful, and it seemed to wound only two or three of the spearmen, but it disrupted the formation and the hedge of spear-points wavered.
Retaliation came in the form of a torrent of fire, raining out of the sky directly on Cierre, hiding her from view for a moment. The flames disappeared and revealed Cierre yet again standing completely unharmed. She brandished her flaming sword and Jack heard her laugh.
“The priest’s in the middle of the spearmen,” Tomi told Jack. “Flame Strike’s a good spell but it won’t do much to a drow holding Angurvadal.”
Jack didn’t know what the midget meant but he could tell that breaking up the phalanx was the last thing that needed to be done to win the battle. He leveled his sidearm and opened fire at one corner of the square formation. The Beretta’s 9mm bullets didn’t have anything like the armor-piercing capabilities of the P-90’s ammo but it was all he had. He aimed carefully, trying to avoid the shields and armor, going for head-shots whenever possible. Across the field he could hear Daniel’s pistol cracking out and a quick glance showed that his colleague was taking out the other corner.
Jack fired his last shot and the slide locked back. He had no more magazines. Daniel’s gun fell silent a moment later. It didn’t matter. Several men were down and there were gaping holes in the formation.
“Victory!” Cierre cried. “Darkness take you!” She hurled herself into one of the gaps, her sword and axe flashing, and began to kill. Seconds later Teal’c and Daelan followed her example. The double-axe whirled through the air, Teal’c’s sword swung in lethal arcs, and men fell dead. It was quite obvious that none of the spearmen stood a chance now that their formation was shattered.
Jack holstered his sidearm. The fight was, effectively, over except for mopping up. Tomi had moved away and was using his dagger to make sure that any surviving knights, wounded or stunned by falls from collapsing horses, didn’t get up again. Ruthless but, in the circumstances, necessary. Sam was now sitting up, supported by Sharwyn, and was actively drinking a healing potion. Jack hastened over to join them. The sounds of combat fell silent as he neared Sharwyn and Sam.
“Thank God! I thought you were…” Jack began. He couldn’t hear his own voice and he stopped. He stood and watched as Sam’s skin miraculously repaired itself and the ghastly burns healed. Even her hair, which had been burnt away to stubble, was growing back.
Sharwyn looked at Jack. Her gaze seemed to focus on his hands, she grimaced, and she fished another potion bottle out of her belt with her free hand and held it out to Jack. Suddenly he became conscious of the pain from his scorched skin. He took the bottle, pried off the cap, and gulped the liquid down. It tasted quite pleasant, sour but with a fruity flavor, reminding him of Belgian kriek beer. The stinging sensation in his hands and the back of his neck cleared up immediately.
He couldn’t talk to Sam, not until Sharwyn got out of the area and took the silence with her, and the singer seemed to have Sam’s medical care well in hand. Jack decided that the most useful thing he could do right now was to reload. There was always the possibility that more of the enemy would turn up. He scooped a handful of loose rounds out of his pocket and began the laborious task of topping up the empty magazine. As he did so he checked out the battlefield again and realized that the battle wasn’t quite as over as he’d thought.
The dead were getting up.
It wasn’t the Resurrection. In amongst the wreckage of the spear phalanx corpses clambered to their feet, still disfigured by the gaping wounds that had killed them, and lurched to the attack. It was as if they were intent on avenging their deaths.
“Oh, great, we’re starring in Dawn of the freakin’ Dead,” Jack grumbled, inaudibly even to himself, and he redoubled the rate at which he was reloading the magazine.
The zombies didn’t pose much of a challenge to Teal’c, Daelan, and Cierre. Jack remembered Kenadi having trouble putting zombies down, soon after SG-1’s arrival on the planet, but that had been because her slim-bladed piercing sword hadn’t been well suited to slaying things without a beating heart and circulating blood. Axes and heavy cutting swords were much better suited to the task. The dead, or undead, went down and stayed down. Then Cierre slew a living man, an armored figure wielding a mace, and the zombies wavered. Their attacks lost focus, some going after the few surviving spearmen and others shambling away in random directions, and thirty seconds later they had all been hacked to pieces. The last of the spearmen fell to a blow from Daelan’s axe and that really was the end of the fight.
Daniel cast his eyes over the DHD, grinned, and then began pressing the formerly incomprehensible symbols. “A musical notation, just as I thought,” he said.
“Don’t tell me,” Jack said, “it’s the ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ theme.”
Daniel paused with his hand over the central globe. “That would only be five notes,” he said. “No, it’s not from any tune I recognize.”
“Which rules out most classical stuff and the soundtrack from ‘The Wizard of Oz’,” Jack remarked. Daniel ignored him and slapped his hand down. The Gate activated, the vortex plume shot out, and then the event horizon stabilized.
The locals had broken off from looting bodies to watch. “Interesting,” Cierre commented. “I sense more power than is required for the portals with which I am familiar.”
“It is the Voice of the Lost,” Sharwyn said. The silencing effect on her had gone away about a minute after the last of the enemy had fallen. “The master portal that linked all of the Illefarn song portals and, according to legend, was also a gateway to other worlds. We now have proof that the legends were true.”
“This ‘Illefarn’ was a civilization around here, right?” Daniel asked. “What happened to it?”
Jack tuned out Daniel and Sharwyn’s discussion and spoke into his radio. “SGC, this is Colonel O’Neill, come in.”
“Colonel O’Neill! Where are you, sir?” Jack didn’t immediately recognize the voice. Well, he supposed Walter Harriman had to go off-duty sometime.
“We’re still on…” Jack tried to dredge up the alpha-numeric designation for the planet but came up dry. “The planet we went to.”
Sam filled in the blank. “P3A-219,” she prompted.
“Oh, yeah, P3A-219,” Jack said, giving Sam a nod of thanks. “The locals call it Toril.”
“Colonel O’Neill,” the distinctive voice of General Hammond came over the radio. He sounded slightly out of breath. Jack guessed that the General had rushed to the control room as soon as the ‘Unscheduled Gate Activation’ alarm had blared out. “This is a new record in lateness even for you. Where the hell have you been, Jack?”
“We got tied up, General,” Jack explained. “That’s literally. We spent ten days in a dungeon getting tortured by an expert.”
“Is everyone okay?” Hammond asked.
“We are now,” Jack said. “The locals have some pretty effective medical techniques. Awesomely effective. Otherwise we’d probably all be dead.”
“I’ll be waiting for your report,” Hammond said. “I notice you haven’t transmitted your IDC. I take it you lost the GDOs when you were captured? I’ll need to speak to all of you before I give the go-ahead to open the iris.”
“Actually, sir, we recovered a GDO,” Jack said, “but we’re not coming home just yet. There’s something we have to do first.”
“I hope it’s something important,” Hammond said.
Jack nodded, even though Hammond couldn’t see him as they hadn’t established a video link, and explained. “This planet isn’t as primitive as we’d thought,” he said. “In some fields the locals seem to be way ahead of us. Carter thinks they could be the Furlings.”
“I’m not so sure,” Jack went on, “but Daniel thinks she might have a point. Anyway, one area they’re behind us in is projectile weapons. There’s a war going on here right now and the side that had us tortured took our guns. We got one of the P-90s back, and our sidearms, but they still have two P-90s and two hundred and fifty rounds, a few grenades, and Teal’c’s staff weapon and zat.”
“A few weapons aren’t worth risking your lives for, and neither is revenge,” Hammond said, “and I want you back here.”
“There’s more to it, sir,” Jack replied. “Those weapons could give the bad guys the edge. They’re really not good people. They used bacteriological warfare against the other side, the ones who’ve been helping us out, and now they’re planning on triggering an ecological catastrophe. There might be some useful trade possibilities here but that would be kind of difficult if the friendly side gets wiped out. It’s not only our duty to help out, seeing as how it’s our weapons that might tip the scale, but it’s in our own interests too.”
Hammond was silent for a moment. “Very well, Colonel, you have my permission,” he said. “Don’t take too long.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jack said. “We need some supplies. Two more P-90s and at least a dozen magazines, say three clips apiece for our sidearms, a replacement staff weapon for Teal’c, if we have one, otherwise an extra P-90 and more ammo, and new winter-pattern BDUs all round. Our clothes got chewed up more than somewhat. Oh, yeah, and we could use a grenade launcher.”
“Isn’t that rather… overkill?”
“If you’d seen what we’ve seen you wouldn’t ask that, sir,” Jack said. “They have battle robots fifteen feet tall. In fact I was tempted to ask for an M136 or two.”
Again Hammond paused for a while before replying. “Very well. Actually it sounds as if you could use reinforcements. I had SG-3 and SG-20 standing by in readiness for a rescue mission and it was only the problem with the non-standard Gate that stopped me sending them in before now. I’ll have them ready for a go inside an hour. Fully armed including a SAW, at least one M136, and grenade launchers.”
It was Jack’s turn to hesitate and consider. “I’m not sure about that, sir. Maybe we’d better stick to just the original team. The learning curve on this world is pretty steep and we’ve already been through it. Also we’re planning on being as quiet and sneaky as possible and a big group would make that hard. We have four native allies, they’re pretty tough, and eight is plenty for a stealth operation. We’d draw too much attention with more. The SAW sounds good, though.”
Daniel frowned. “A machine-gun would draw a lot of attention too, Jack, and suppose it fell into the hands of the Luskans? I’d say stick to what they already know about. That way we don’t make things even worse if things go wrong.”
“I suppose you have a point,” Jack conceded. “We don’t work for the Star Trek Federation, Daniel, and we don’t have to stick to any Prime Directive, but I guess we don’t want to screw things up for the locals any more than we already have done.” He went back to the radio. “Change of plan, General, don’t bother with the SAW. I’d still like an M136, though, and a grenade launcher.”
“Of course, Colonel,” General Hammond replied. “Expect the supplies in twenty minutes or so.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jack said.
“I’m glad to find out you’re safe,” Hammond added. “We’ve been keeping a constant radio watch, dialing the Gate twice daily, and I brought in Dr Rodney MacKay to help decipher the non-standard DHD symbols.” Jack heard Sam utter a quiet groan.
“Daniel figured them out, with a little help from the locals,” Jack said.
“Well done, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond said. “I also got in touch with the Tok’ra to see if they could mount a rescue by ship.” Jack heard him drawing in a deep breath. “Colonel, they say that the planet you’re on doesn’t exist.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “I’m standing right here, sir, I think that’s pretty positive proof that it exists.”
“It didn’t fifteen years ago,” Hammond said, “at least not as a habitable environment, according to the Tok’ra. They surveyed it as a possible location for a base and rejected it because it was in the depths of an ice age. The Gate was under a glacier, the oceans were frozen, and they didn’t detect any signs of life at all.”
“Huh? Are you sure they didn’t mean fifteen thousand? It doesn’t make sense.”
“That’s what they told me,” Hammond confirmed.
“It makes sense to me,” Daniel put in. “If the local gods really are Ascended Beings, and they’re as powerful as they seem, they wouldn’t have had any problem hiding the real state of the planet from the Tok’ra.”
“You could be right,” Jack agreed, “although that doesn’t explain how they didn’t hide it from us.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Sharwyn said, giving Jack a beaming smile. “They like Earth. It was your people who taught our gods to rock.”
Daniel hovered over Sharwyn, managing to hold himself back from actually saying anything, but Jack could hear the words ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’ as plainly as if Daniel was saying them out loud. Sharwyn read Daniel just as easily.
“I have used portals before, Daniel,” she reminded him, with an accompanying eye-roll. “Not this particular one, true, but I’ve traveled to the Halls of Justice through other portals quite often.” She touched a finger lightly to five of the DHD’s symbols, too lightly to activate them, and then played the five corresponding notes on her guitar. “Yes, that’s it,” she said. She lowered the instrument and pressed the symbols again, more firmly this time, and the ring revolved and the chevrons locked. Sharwyn slapped the central globe, hard, and the space inside the ring shimmered and changed.
There was no ‘kawoosh’. Instead a blue surface, paler and dimmer than a normal event horizon, appeared quietly and without fuss.
“Fascinating,” Daniel breathed.
“Short range, low power, only traveling in two dimensions,” Sam muttered. “I had no idea the Gates could be used like this.”
Jack shouldered his pack. “We might as well get going. It’s time to kick some ass.”
“And chew bubblegum,” Sharwyn added.
“I’m all out of bubblegum,” Jack responded, “and it’s one thing I didn’t think to ask General Hammond to send along.”
“That’s okay,” Sharwyn said. “I don’t even know what bubblegum is.” She walked towards the Gate. “I’d better go first. Strangers turning up in the Halls, when the city is under siege, might trigger a hostile reaction.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed.
“Sure thing,” Jack said.
Sharwyn led the way, with Daelan and Tomi at her heels, with SG-1 following and Cierre, who looked uncharacteristically nervous, bringing up the rear. One by one they went through the pale blue curtain and disappeared. Jack stepped through and was slightly taken aback by the absence of the familiar sensation of hurtling through space through a tunnel lined with streaks of light. Instead he just stepped straight out into somewhere else.
A great big room, with a stone floor and stone walls, and majestic stone pillars supporting the ceiling. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the portal as a blue circle in the air, hanging unsupported, with no Gate ring around it. They were standing on a large square platform, empty except for the portal and a water-filled stone font, and there was no sign of any DHD.
There were quite a few people in the room. Some of them were armed guards, in plate armor and carrying swords, but most seemed to be civilians. A lot of them were lying down in bedrolls on the floor and seemed to be being tended by women who were probably nurses.
“This is a hospital?” Daniel guessed.
“It’s the Temple of Tyr,” Sharwyn replied, as she led the group off the platform and into the room proper, “but it was pressed into service as a hospital during the plague and it seems it still serves that purpose. Hello, Sergol.”
“Greetings, Sharwyn,” a white-haired man in long robes responded. “This is a time of great need. Have you brought us aid?”
“I have,” Sharwyn said. “You could probably use these.” She passed the man a sack. “We have to keep plenty of potions for our own use, I’m afraid, but here’s all we can spare. What’s the situation?”
“The Luskans have occupied large sections of the city and there are many dead and injured,” Sergol told her. “I do not know the details. You will need to speak to Aarin Gend, or to Trancar, to find out the military situation. I concern myself only with tending to the wounded.”
“Aarin will be at the Castle, I expect. Where’s Trancar?”
“He has set up a temporary headquarters at the Trade of Blades,” Sergol replied. His gaze focused on Cierre. “This, I take it, is the drow who slew the Hero of Neverwinter?”
Every head in the place swiveled and every eye stared at Cierre. “I am,” Cierre admitted. “I was tricked into it and I regret it greatly.”
“Murderer!” one of the nurses hissed.
“Vile drow!” another one snarled.
“Slay the murderer!” shouted one man, clad in the sort of pants and tunic that Jack associated with Medieval peasant types, and who was just standing around and didn’t seem to be part of the medical staff or the guards.
A nurse nearby took two strides and swung her hand at the man. His head jerked back with the impact of the slap. “Shut up!” she yelled. “She’s on our side now, right? Nothing matters except killing that fucker Maugrim.” Jack saw the nurse’s face and winced. Her body was… spectacular, slim yet curvaceous enough to turn Anise green with envy, but her face was a ravaged, pockmarked, horror.
“Hold, all of you!” Sergol commanded. He gazed intently at Cierre. “I sense no evil in this woman.”
“No evil? But she’s a drow,” one of the guardsmen in armor pointed out.
“And is Drizzt Do’Urden not also a drow?” Sergol asked, presumably rhetorically. “This is a place for healing, not for argument and recrimination, and I will have order here. Return to your duties. As Chantry has said, although in intemperate terms, the struggle against Maugrim is all that is important for the present.”
“Chantry?” Sharwyn’s eyes were huge circles. “Oh, my Goddess!”
The pock-marked nurse turned her face away. “Fuck off, Sharwyn,” she said. “I don’t want your pity. You were right. My so-called goddess is a useless piece of shit. But if you say ‘I told you so’ I will smash your still-pretty face in.”
“I never…” Sharwyn began, and then fell silent. The nurse scuttled away towards a door. Sharwyn turned to Jack. “I can’t deal with this,” she said. “Come on. Let’s get out of here. I really need to kill something evil.” She set off in the opposite direction to that in which the nurse had gone, heading towards a large double door that was guarded by six armed men, and which was presumably the exit into the city. The rest of the group followed.
“Welcome to my city,” Sharwyn said, as they passed through the doors and emerged into the open air, “or at least to what’s left of it.”
If Luskan had been Sarajevo then Neverwinter was Stalingrad. The air was thick with smoke. There were gaps in the streets where buildings had been smashed to pieces or burned down. Streaks of light in the sky showed the paths of blazing missiles being flung into the city by siege engines.
“We’d better go to the Trade of Blades first and find out where we’re most needed, and where Maugrim’s most likely to be,” Sharwyn said, as they walked across a beautiful stone plaza, set with flower-beds and fountains, but which was scarred by paving slabs shattered under the impact of falling rocks. “Aarin Gend and Kenadi were… close. If Cierre turns up at Castle Never right now, without at least Maugrim’s head hanging at her belt as a peace offering, things might get… nasty.”
“Sounds sensible,” Jack agreed.
“Of all the things I have done in my life that is the one I regret most,” Cierre said. “I should have cut Maugrim’s lying throat when first he approached me.”
“You couldn’t have known,” Sharwyn said.
“You have… done what you could to make amends,” Daelan said, “and you beat her in fair fight.” He spoke slowly, as if the words were being dragged out of him against his will, but Jack deduced that Cierre’s deeds had softened Daelan’s initially hostile attitude.
“I cheated,” Cierre confessed. “I faked her out. I took a hit from her sword deliberately and relied on my magic resistance to beat its stun effect. I pretended to be paralyzed to lure her into letting down her guard.”
Daelan’s heavy brows descended low. “That was a… legitimate combat tactic,” he conceded. “I do not hold it against you. I do not know if I can ever forgive you for her death but I accept that you fought with honor.”
“Thanks,” Cierre grunted. For a minute or so, as the group walked through the city and surveyed the devastation, no-one spoke.
Eventually Jack decided that conversation, even on a potentially awkward topic, would be better than the sounds of the bombardment and the occasional screams of injured and dying civilians. “That, uh, nurse back there,” he said to Sharwyn. “She was a friend of yours, I guess?”
“Not exactly,” Sharwyn replied. “She was a fan, that’s all. She liked my music. She’s also an obnoxious spoiled brat. Wealthy, beautiful, and arrogant.”
“Beautiful?” Jack fought to stop his jaw from dropping. He heard Daniel mutter an obscenity, probably in Ancient Egyptian but translated into English by the amulets, under his breath. Sam uttered a sound that sounded like a choked sob.
“Miss Neverwinter 1370 and 1371,” Sharwyn said. She had gone visibly pale and looked as if she was on the verge of being sick. “They called her the Face of the Seventies. I’ve heard her described as the most beautiful girl Neverwinter has seen in living memory. Leading acolyte of the Temple of Sûne and tipped to be a future High Priestess. Of course that was before the Wailing Death.” Jack saw her throat move as she swallowed hard. “I’ll say this for her,” Sharwyn went on. “When the plague hit Neverwinter the other Sûnites all legged it out of the city as fast as they could. She must have stayed to help – and caught the plague.”
“How come the plague did so much damage?” Sam asked. “Your, uh, priests are so good at healing injuries that I would have thought they could handle disease just as easily.”
“They can, normally,” Sharwyn said, “but even a High Priest can only do a few Cure Diseases each day. This plague was resistant and it was taking two or three Cure spells to work. We were getting hundreds of new cases each day.” She sighed. “The priestesses of Talona were getting the best results but there were only three of them in the city.”
“Talona,” Daniel commented. “Goddess of Disease and Poison, am I correct?”
“That’s right,” said Sharwyn. “Anyway, some damn fool started a rumor that the Talonans had started the plague. One of them was lynched and the others went underground. Actually it was probably Desther and his fake Priests of Helm who started the rumor. They were the ones who were spreading the plague, working for Maugrim, and when we came up with a cure they nearly succeeded in stealing it. They would have done if it hadn’t been for Kenadi.”
They walked on without further conversation for a few paces and turned a corner. “This is it,” Sharwyn said, stopping in front of a building which looked like a cross between a miniature fortress and an inn. “The Trade of Blades.” She opened the door and led them inside.
If Jack hadn’t already been told the place was being used as a temporary military HQ he would have recognized it immediately anyway. Or else assumed that wargaming as a hobby had spread to Toril. A large trestle table was set up in the middle of the room, with soldier types clustered around it, and chalk lines were drawn on the wood presumably to represent districts of the city. Toy soldiers, pretty crude compared with modern Earth wargaming figures, were clustered inside the lines. There were no maps on display, which was slightly puzzling, but otherwise the purpose was clear.
A grizzled, mustachioed, guy in plate armor turned away from the table as the newcomers filed in. “Sharwyn,” he greeted. “Daelan. Good to see you. We need every fighter we can get.”
“What’s the situation, Captain Trancar?” Sharwyn asked.
“The Luskans have overrun most of the city,” Trancar told her. “They’ve driven us out of the Beggars’ Nest altogether and control most of the Peninsula District, the Docks, pretty much everywhere except Blacklake and the Mercantile Quarter. Right now they’re consolidating, bombarding the rest of the city, and looting. They’re not launching any new attacks at the moment, probably waiting for the bombardment to wear us down, but they seem to be massing their forces to the South.”
“They’ll be coming at us again before long,” one of the other soldiers said. “I’ve never known the Luskans be this determined. They press home their attacks even against massive odds and, even wounded and surrounded, they won’t surrender.”
“Maugrim’s followers are fanatics,” Sharwyn said. “I found the diary of one of his cultists recording how he’d had his wife flogged to death when she expressed doubts over Maugrim’s cause. I think you’d find that ordinary Luskan soldiers aren’t as enthusiastic. The trouble is they’re probably more scared of Maugrim than they are of us.”
“Perhaps,” Trancar said, “but in practice it makes little difference. And by now the advantage is decisively with Luskan. Between our losses from the plague, and the casualties we have taken in the street-fighting, they outnumber us significantly.”
“How long before the troops from the Lords’ Alliance get here?” Sharwyn asked.
“Five days, at the soonest, they say,” Trancar said. “I can’t see us holding out that long unless we can get rid of their catapults and their bloody war golems. I’ve tried a few sorties at the catapults but they beat us back every time. The Luskans have a new rapid-fire smoke-powder weapon that tears up any massed formation and in open order we can’t cope with the golems and the giants.”
“Giants?” Jack put in.
“Frost Giants, allies of the Luskans,” Trancar said. His eyes narrowed and he focused on the P-90 slung across Jack’s chest. “Those look like the Luskan weapons.”
“The Luskans stole the weapons from us,” Jack said. “We want them back. Plus we want payback for a week and a half of torture in their dungeons.”
“A ten-day,” Sharwyn translated. “These people are from a far place and count their days in sevens.” She gave a tight smile. “They’re on our side and they’re damn good fighters.”
“They’ll need to be,” Trancar said, sounding skeptical.
“Just show us where to find these catapults and robots, uh, golems,” Jack said. He cast an eye over the table. “A map would be a help.”
“Lord Nasher does not permit maps of Neverwinter to be made,” Trancar said. “He wants the defenders of Neverwinter always to have the advantage of local knowledge.”
“And, of course, the leader of the Neverwinter Nine is never going to defect to the enemy, and there are no such things as Clairvoyance spells and aerial reconnaissance by griffin riders,” Sharwyn said, with a roll of her eyes. “Which reminds me, do the Luskans have any air support?”
Trancor shook his head. “Not much,” he said. “A few wizards using Fly spells, but their own catapults make that hazardous for them as much as for us. A few of the men have seen a big flying demon but it hasn’t come this way.”
“Damn, and I didn’t think to ask General Hammond for any Stingers,” Jack said. “Okay, so where are these catapults? And where can I find Maugrim?”
Jack listened intently as Trancor explained the layout of the area and the disposition of the enemy forces. It didn’t take long for him to get a grasp of the salient points. Meanwhile one of the other people in the room had approached the group.
“Hello, Sharwyn, Daelan, Tomi.” It was a small woman, about five foot two, with long pointed ears. She was wearing plate armor and had a shield strapped to her arm.
“Linu,” Daelan said. “How are you faring?”
“I survive,” Linu said. “Boddyknock and Grimgnaw are dead.”
“I am saddened to hear of Boddyknock’s death,” Daelan said, “but I will shed no tears for Grimgnaw.”
“He was a nasty little bastard,” Sharwyn said.
“He died well,” Linu said. “He slew half a dozen Luskan assassins before they took him down.” She toyed with the mace at her belt, somehow managed to slip it free from its hanging strap, and dropped it on the floor. She bent down hastily and picked it up. “I am glad to see that you are free from your captivity, Daelan. It seems that I was not missed.”
“Your healing skills were sorely missed, Linu,” Sharwyn admitted. “Sam,” she gestured towards Carter, “was severely injured by a fireball and I had great difficulty in administering a potion. She almost died.”
“I could rejoin you,” Linu offered.
“Then you are willing to fight alongside Cierre?”
Linu shook her head. “Never.”
“Then we cannot use you,” Sharwyn said. “Cierre is a fighter of exceptional skill and we would not have prevailed thus far without her.”
Linu raised an eyebrow. “As good as Aribeth?”
Sharwyn hesitated and bit her lip before replying. “I fear not.”
“I am a match for any mere surface elf,” Cierre stated. The edge to her voice showed that she had taken offense.
“I am sorry, Cierre, I do not mean to belittle you, but you know not of what you speak,” Sharwyn said. “Aribeth is a fighter almost without equal.” Sharwyn looked at Teal’c, who still bore the faded remnants of the blue circle she had painted on his face earlier. “Do you remember when I talked of Minsc and said that perhaps only ten in all Faerûn could stand against him? Aribeth, alas, is one of those ten. And we’ll have to go through her to get to Maugrim.”
Jack cautiously poked his head above the rubble, put his binoculars to his eyes, and took a look at the line of catapults. He had a superficial knowledge of the ancient weapons, from military history studies at the Air Force Academy, but it had been a long time ago and he’d forgotten a lot. Daniel was bound to know a lot more but it probably wasn’t relevant. All he needed to know was how to destroy them and that was fairly obvious. Smash the wood, cut the ropes, light them on fire. Or kill the crews.
“Two trebuchets,” he heard Daniel say, “four ballistas, and a mangonel. The mangonel’s the one with the longest range, the ballistas have a flat trajectory and are the most accurate.”
“I’m not going to pick and choose, Daniel,” Jack said. “We take them all out. Of course first we have to get past the freakin’ robot.”
A metal man, looking as if it had been built out of girders, was guarding the flank of the siege engine battery. In the distance Jack could see a second huge robot. Roaming behind the line was an impossible figure; a pale-skinned Viking warrior, to all appearances, but over fifteen feet tall.
“I don’t understand how that giant can even walk,” Sam commented. “The cube-square law should mean that the stress on his bones should snap them like twigs.”
“Paraceratherium was taller and much heavier,” Daniel pointed out.
“But quadrupedal,” Sam riposted.
“Tyrannosaurus Rex, then, although dinosaurs saved weight with hollow bones,” Daniel said. “And what about Gigantopithecus? Ten feet tall, humanoid, and probably weighed twelve hundred pounds or more. That giant might be taller but he’s also thinner.”
“He’s there, he’s real, there’s no point in trying to disprove him,” Jack said, his head starting to spin from the paleontological bickering. “At least he doesn’t look tough enough to shrug off machine-gun bullets. The robot is our big problem. We’re only going to get one shot at it and I want to make it count.”
“We would have the best line of fire if it was coming towards us,” Teal’c said.
Jack nodded. “Good thinking. Okay, people, a grenade at one of the catapults should get its attention.”
“And that of the human guards,” Cierre said, pointing at the siege engines. Each one, as well as the numerous crew winding up the ballistas and heaving at the ropes of the trebuchets and mangonel, had several men-at-arms standing on guard in the vicinity.
Jack scrutinized them through his binoculars. “Well, we’ve located one of the P-90s,” he said. “There’s one of those dwarf types beside the odd one out, the mangonel, and he’s got a gun.”
“He’d never hit us at this range,” Sam said.
“Yeah, well, that was what General Sedgwick thought at the Battle of Spotsylvania,” Jack reminded her. “Better if he doesn’t even get off a shot. Okay, this is what we’ll do…”
Jack took careful aim and pulled the trigger of the M79 grenade launcher. The distinctive ‘bloop’ as the weapon fired didn’t seem to register with the Luskan soldiers as a threat. The catapult crews were still working, and the men-at-arms were still standing on guard, when the 40mm grenade struck the base of the mangonel and went off.
The sound of the explosion was still ringing out when Sam and Teal’c opened up with their P-90s. Those of the catapult crew who had survived the explosion went down under the hail of bullets. Jack dropped the M79, snatched up his binoculars, and checked the target area. The dwarf lay on the ground, ripped apart by shrapnel, and the P-90 had been blown ten feet away. So far, so good.
Just as they had expected the battle robot was heading towards them, towering over the humans who were now fleeing in disorder, eating up the distance with huge strides. Jack lowered the binoculars and accepted the M136 rocket launcher from Daniel. General Hammond had come through big time in response to Jack’s request for supplies.
Daniel moved away and readied his own P-90. Jack had warned Sharwyn’s group of the dangers of the back-blast but he still checked behind him before he disengaged the safeties and cocked the M136. With that done he centered the sights on the robot’s chest, waited until it had closed to about fifty yards, and then pressed the trigger button.
The 84mm projectile streaked through the air and impacted. It wouldn’t have penetrated the frontal armor of a modern tank but the robot, although impressive, had been designed only to shrug off the blows of swords and axes and the fierce but un-concentrated heat of Fireball spells. The shaped-charge warhead blew through the steel and tore the robot apart. The chest exploded, the arms and head fell off, and the legs and hips of the robot stood for a moment and then toppled to the ground.
Behind the robot the giant, who had been advancing with a colossal hammer raised to strike, wavered and fell back. The human survivors of the catapult crews fled.
“Now that was impressive,” Tomi commented, as he approached Jack from the side. “Good thing you warned us not to stand behind you or I’d be nothing but a pair of smoking boots.”
“The other one won’t be so easy,” Jack said. “We only had the one rocket launcher and the grenades probably won’t have anything like the same effect.”
“Chewed up the mangonel pretty good, though, and I don’t think the crews will stop running this side of Port Llast,” Tomi said. He lifted up his magic gem and peered through it. “They haven’t left anyone invisible behind.”
“Good to know,” said Jack. “That’s funny. I thought the other, uh, golem would be charging right over but it’s not. It’s backing off.”
“They can’t think for themselves,” Tomi said, “so the wizard controlling it must have pulled it back. He wouldn’t want it to go the same way and he’s not going to know you don’t have another of those blast weapons.”
“Yeah, it’s backed right off,” Jack said. He scanned the robot’s surroundings through the binoculars. “Backed off as if it’s protecting something. A house.”
“Probably where the wizard’s holed up,” Tomi said. “Mind you, the golem will be back in action soon enough when we move out to destroy the catapults.”
“So we get rid of it first,” Jack said, “or, better still, we get rid of the wizard.”
They bypassed the guardian golem by going in through the house next door. It was occupied by Luskan troops and they were tough professional soldiers. Jack didn’t want the sound of gunshots to warn the wizard of impending danger and so there was a fierce hand-to-hand struggle before the Luskans fell.
With the opposition out of the way Jack laid C4 charges against the dividing wall. Everyone backed as far away as possible, and took cover, and then Jack blew the charges.
When the smoke and dust cleared there was a hole in the wall big enough for three people to pass through simultaneously. “Wait!” Jack commanded. The range was too short for an M79 grenade to arm and so he tossed in a hand grenade. Only when the explosion sounded did he give the word to go in.
The room in which they found themselves was dominated by a mighty being. A ‘demon’, it had to be, it couldn’t be anything else. Twice as tall as a man, red-skinned, horned, and with wings like a bat. Flames flickered on its skin and it brandished a whip and a massive sword.
Sam gave it a burst with her P-90 but the bullets simply bounced off. Cierre sheathed her flaming sword, drew the green-bladed one instead, and closed with the demon.
“Ignore the balor, just kill the wizard,” Sharwyn advised from just behind Jack. The wizard in question was on his knees on the floor, beside a severely damaged desk and chair, trying to pull himself upright. His robe was torn and bloody.
“Sure thing,” Jack said. The M79 was hampering his access to the P-90 and so he drew his handgun instead. He fired twice at the wizard’s head just as Sam let loose with another burst from her P-90. The wizard took multiple hits and sprawled lifeless on the floor. Instantly the demon vanished.
“A summoned creature goes back to where it came from if you kill the summoner,” Sharwyn explained. “I could have banished it with a song, of course, but this was quicker.”
“Fascinating,” Daniel said.
“Now how come I knew you were going to say that?” Jack asked.
“Are you saying I’m predictable, Jack?”
“I’m saying that if Pavlov rang his bell you’d say ‘Fascinating’, Daniel,” Jack replied.
“I do not know who ‘Pavlov’ is but it is indeed the case that you say ‘Fascinating’ extremely often, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c agreed.
Daniel pouted. “Indeed?”
Sharwyn and Tomi had immediately begun to check out the wizard’s corpse and desk. “Now this really is fascinating,” Sharwyn announced. She held aloft a sheet of paper. “Instructions to the wizard telling him how to get to Aribeth and Maugrim.”
“Jackpot,” Jack said, grinning.
“There’s a catch,” Sharwyn said. She read aloud from the paper. “It says ‘Beware the Balor, for he guards the entrance to Maugrim’s Sanctuary and will kill all trespassers.’ We can’t kill Maugrim until we’ve already got past the demon and it sounds as if it’s here long-term and not just summoned. I might not be able to banish it. We might have to do this the hard way.”
The smoke from the grenade explosion cleared away. The nearby buildings had suffered shattered windows and shrapnel-pitted walls but the balor stood completely unharmed. Sharwyn’s rendition of ‘Get Back’ also had failed to have any effect.
“Oh, bugger!” Sharwyn swore.
“It is, then, up to you and me, Daelan Red Tiger,” Cierre said. “Alas, Angurvadal’s flames are useless against a balor and the Blade of the Gladiator’s enchantment is comparatively weak.” She drew her hand-axe, and the green-bladed sword, and advanced. Daelan strode forward at her side.
“You cannot stand against me, puny humans,” the demon roared, “but if you give me your women I shall allow the men to flee unharmed.” It cracked a multi-thonged whip and swung its flaming sword.
“Blow it out your ear,” Jack replied. Teal’c removed his P-90, drew the two-handed sword that he was still carrying as a reserve weapon, and went to join Cierre and Daelan.
“There is something I could try,” Sharwyn muttered. “Shar, guide my hands.” Her fingers danced across her guitar strings and she began to sing once more.
“Angel came down from heaven here today,
She stayed with me long enough
To rescue me…”
The shadows in the alleyway, cast by the buildings on the sunward side, seemed to move. They swirled, formed into a humanoid shape, and stood up. Suddenly a female figure was standing there.
She was pale of skin, mother-of-pearl white rather than European pink, and had light blue hair. Her face was stunningly beautiful. She stood some seven feet tall and had wings of dove-grey feathers. Twin swords hung from her waist belt.
The rest of her appearance was somewhat less angelic. She wore skin-tight leather pants, a purple top that clung to her body tightly enough to show off her nipples, and an open black leather jacket decorated with metal studs and hanging chains. If it wasn’t for the wings she would have looked perfectly at home on the back of a chopped Harley Davidson.
Sharwyn’s fingers faltered on her guitar strings. “Lady Egeria!” she exclaimed, her tone reverent, and she dropped to her knees.
“Egeria?” Daniel echoed. Jack recognized the name too. Egeria had been the founder and Queen of the Tok’ra but had been captured by Ra, and presumed executed, somewhere around 700 BC. Jack could remember Daniel droning on about her having passed into legend, as some sort of nymph, but he didn’t recall any mention of her having had wings.
“The Herald of Shar,” Sharwyn explained. A coincidence of name, presumably, and this wasn’t the missing Tok’ra Queen. “The right hand of my goddess.”
The balor turned away from Cierre and Daelan and stared at the newcomer. Its face resembled a skull but it was still possible to see that the demon was frowning. “A mere Shard of Selûne? And you think you can challenge me?”
“If I still served the Truce-breaker then perhaps not,” the angel replied, “but I serve Shar and I’ve been tutored in swordplay by Eilistraee herself. Bring it on, skull-face, let’s dance.”
The balor roared and swung its sword. Egeria drew her swords so quickly that Jack didn’t even see her hands move. She parried, riposted, and carved a bloody gouge across the demon’s chest.
Cierre and Daelan scrambled back out of the way. Teal’c would have gone to the angel’s assistance but the other two grabbed him, lifted him bodily off his feet, and carried him off.
“We’d only get in her way,” Cierre said. “Just leave her to it.”
It was soon clear that Egeria didn’t need any help. She cut the balor to pieces with a succession of blindingly fast sword strokes. When, eventually, the demon managed to tangle one of her sword-blades with its whip Egeria leapt up into the air, kicked the demon in the face hard enough to send it staggering backwards, and then when the balor tugged on its whip she went forward with the pull and drove her sword to the hilt into the balor’s torso. It uttered a hissing shriek of agony, a sound something between a steam boiler’s safety valve blowing and a railway locomotive applying its brakes at full speed, and fell to its knees. Egeria’s other sword swept across in a blur of motion and sliced through the balor’s neck.
Egeria pulled her sword from the balor’s chest and kicked the body away to join the head on the alley floor. She flicked demon blood from the blades and sheathed the swords. She turned to face the humans and smiled.
“Okay, I’ve rescued you,” she said, “and according to the song I’m supposed to stay long enough to tell you a story. I’m afraid ‘the sweet love between the moon and the deep blue sea’ isn’t really a suitable topic for me any longer. Any other requests?”
“Uh, I, uh,” Sharwyn mumbled. She seemed to be overcome with awe. Jack guessed that to her this was pretty much like a star of the Christian Rock scene having a personal encounter with the Angel Gabriel.
“Are you really an angel?” Daniel asked.
“Indeed so,” Egeria confirmed. “Some might quibble with that designation, saying that only the Powers of Good can have angels in their service, and Shar was formerly Evil and is now a Power of Neutrality, but, frankly, they can go fuck themselves.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. That wasn’t the sort of language he’d expect to hear from an angel; other than, of course, a Hells Angel.
Daniel pursed his lips. “Uh, are you an Ascended Being?”
“I am,” Egeria said. “Sixteen hundred years ago I was human. I’m not willing to answer any further personal questions.”
“I’m guessing you’re not the same Egeria as the one who was on our planet, then,” Jack said.
“A co-incidence of name, nothing more,” Egeria said. She tilted her head to one side. “She lives still.”
“What?” Daniel’s eyes opened very wide. “Egeria of the Tok’ra isn’t dead? Where is she?”
“A prisoner,” Egeria said, “and her time draws short. I too have been a prisoner and I feel sympathy for my namesake. When you find her – and you will – then call me. Speak in shadow and I will hear.”
“You can’t just leave it there,” Daniel protested. “If you know that much you have to know where she is.”
“There are others, in the realms beyond Toril, who would regard me telling you more as interference,” Egeria said. “Let what I have told you be enough. Do not press the issue and anger me. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. Was this agent of an alien goddess really quoting from the old The Incredible Hulk TV show? Although Egeria spoke forcefully, obviously serious about answering no further questions on that subject, there might just be a twinkle in her blue eyes. Maybe she was quoting. Or else, like Sharwyn, she had picked up the phrases via the previous visitors from Earth without knowing anything about the original shows or movies.
Sharwyn had found her voice. “Lady Egeria,” she said, “is there anything that you can tell me that would further our quest to slay Maugrim and defeat his mistress Morag?”
“There is,” Egeria answered. “First, remember that Aribeth is not corrupted beyond hope. Perhaps she can be returned to innocence. She has burned her bridges with Tyr, and the Wall awaits her, yet she acted out of the pain of loss. That puts her in Shar’s domain and, if she so pleads, my Mistress will accept her into the fold and spare her that dread fate.”
“Return to innocence,” Sharwyn said quietly. She gave a sudden broad smile. “I shall remember, my Lady.”
“Second, when time seems to pass by too fast, remember – rush.”
Jack frowned. That seemed to be the sort of incomprehensible advice that Oma Desala would dish out. He glanced at Daniel, who seemed to be equally baffled, and then at Sharwyn. The singer’s smile had grown even broader.
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “Thank you again, Lady Egeria.”
“Third,” Egeria went on, “to slay Morag you must leave her until last.”
Sharwyn’s smile disappeared. “I don’t understand, Lady.”
“I do,” Cierre put in. “No doubt she draws power from her followers, or else she can transfer herself into them if her own body is slain. Kill the others first and her power will be lessened. I have heard of such things before.”
“Of course,” Sharwyn said, and she slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand. “Like when Sorkatani fought Aec’Letec.”
Egeria nodded fractionally. “Lastly,” she said, and her gaze was fixed on Cierre as she spoke, “put not your trust in the gratitude of princes. Keep in mind that two can swing from a gallows as easily as one and remember the fate of Fenthick.”
“I swore a vow,” Cierre replied, “and I will not break it even at the cost of my life.”
“True,” said Egeria, “but your vow made no mention of hanging around afterwards, did it?”
Cierre’s lips twitched into the tight smile that Jack had seen several times before. “In neither sense of the word. I shall bear your warning in mind, Herald of Shar.”
“That would be wise,” Egeria said. She crouched down slightly and tensed her leg muscles. “I have tarried here long enough. ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” She leapt upwards, flapping her wings, and accelerated rapidly away. In a matter of seconds she was out of sight.
“Damn,” Jack said. “I was going to ask her how come Lady Cold Circle’s healing spells didn’t work on Teal’c.”
“That’s impossible,” Sharwyn said. “They simply accelerate the body’s natural repair processes. Someone who did not respond to healing spells would never heal from injury. He could die from a trivial cut.”
“Ah,” said Jack. “That explains it.”
“Sir,” Sam said, looking up into the sky at where Egeria had disappeared, “you realize that, when we get back to the SGC and make our reports, General Hammond is going to have us all locked up for psychiatric evaluation?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Daniel muttered.
“What, just because we’ve met an angel who seems to be a Jimi Hendrix fan?” Jack shook his head. “On this planet’s scale of weirdness that doesn’t even rate a three. Anyway, she’s gone now. We’d better get back to the mission. There should be one of those ring transporter equivalents at the far end of this alley.”
“I see the portal,” Tomi said. “It is disguised but I can point it out to you.”
“Good,” said Jack. “We’re within striking distance of Maugrim. Payback time.”
Disclaimer: songs quoted in this chapter are ‘Snowballed’ by AC/DC, ‘Angel’ by Jimi Hendrix, and ‘Purple Haze’ by Jimi Hendrix. The lyrics of ‘Angel’ were minutely changed to fit the required timescale. Lyrics are used without the permission of the copyright holders. No ownership is claimed and there is no intent to profit from their use.